Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gender Politics - ISNA's First Female President

The recent election of Ingrid Mattson to the presidency of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was received with great enthusiasm by the North American Muslim community and the public at large. Her election was seen as a sign of maturation, and as a vindication of Islam's respect of women's rights and contemporary Muslims' ability to overcome cultural traditions and rise to the level of the high moral demands of Islam.

Yet some Muslims in North America, and many in Muslim societies, raised questions as to the propriety of a female presiding over the largest Muslim organization in North America, and as to the compatibility of female leadership with Islamic principles and precepts. As one of the skeptics about the position taken by the Islamic Society of North America put it: "Why ISNA is violating [the] Sunnah and clear guidelines in Islam? Is that ISNA now being influenced by [a] local version of Islam?"

Those who resist the notion of women leadership in the name of Islam base their position on historical arguments made by early Muslim jurists. Yet a fair examination of early Muslim scholarship and Islamic sources reveals a variety of positions with regards to the public rights and duties of women. While Ibn Jarir al-Tabari places no limitations on women's right to assume the post of judge in all legal matters, al-Mawardi contends that women cannot be allowed to serve as judges under any circumstances. In between stands Abu Hanifa who allows women to serve as judges but only in cases involving commercial deals.

Historical Islamic jurisprudence, while recognizing the capacity of women to enjoy certain civil and political liberties, managed, nonetheless, to curtail these liberties on social and rational grounds. The degree of limitation on the exercise of civil and political rights also varied across historical periods and legal schools.

When approaching Islamic sources to shed light on the issue of women's rights, a clear distinction emerges between the rights of women in the public sphere, and their rights in the area of family law. For while Islamic sources differentiate men's and women's responsibilities within the family, all limitations on women's rights imposed by early jurists in the public sphere were based on either historically-bound interpretations of Islamic texts, or practical limitations associated with the social and political structures of historical society.

The Qur'an is unequivocal in assigning equal responsibilities for men and women for maintaining public order: "The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin the right (ma'ruf) and forbid the intolerable (munkar); they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger." (Qur'an 9:71). Since men and women are entrusted with the same public responsibility to enjoin the right and forbid the intolerable, one should expect that both would enjoy equal political rights. Yet it is obvious that classical jurists deny women political equality with men. The question therefore arises as to what is the basis of the classical position?

Jurists who deny women the right to public office base their arguments on one Qur'anic and one prophetic statement. The Qur'anic statement reads: "Men are the protectors (qawwamun) of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because men support women from their means." (4: 34) The word qawwamun which connotes "support" and "protection" has come to signify authority as well. The fact that qawwamun also signifies authority is not difficult to see as the remainder of the above Qur'anic statement empowers men with the right to discipline women guilty of mischief. But can the above verse be used to deny women access to public office?

The answer is an emphatic no. For the authority implied by qawwamun and the obedience it entails is relevant--even under classical interpretation--within the confines of the family. It is clear that the Qur'an does not intend to give authority to every single man over every single woman. Nor do those who extend the implication of this verse to the public sphere expect that any single woman in society should obey any single man. This being the case, no one can invoke the notion of qawwamun to deny women access to public office.

The other textual evidence used by classical jurists, and continues to be held by contemporary traditionalist jurists, is in the form of a hadith text that states: "They shall never succeed those who entrust their affairs to a woman." Reportedly the statement is a comment made by the Prophet upon hearing the news of the accession of Puran, the daughter of King Anusherawan, to the Persian throne after the passing away of her father. The hadith is authentic, and was reported by Bukhari, Tirmidhi, and Nasa'i. Its narrator, Abu Bakra, stated that the Prophet uttered this statement while commenting on the news of the accession of Puran. As such, the hadith has bearing only on a particular incident, and does not embody a univesal principle. The fact that it contradicts a universal principle establish by the verse (4: 34) of the Qur'an discussed above reafirms its particular nature.

Further, the following issues must be recalled when interpreting the above hadith: (1) The hadith statement is not given in the form of a directive, but an opinion that has to be understood in its historical and cultural context. That is, the hadith has to be interpreted in the context of a historical society where women were not active participants in political life, and in the context of a political culture that places the hereditary rule over the principle of merit in deciding political succession. (2) The hadith is a single statement that has no support in the most authoritative Islamic source--i.e. the Qur'an. Indeed, the narrator of the hadith had no following among the Prophet's companions in his effort to extend the application of the hadith to 'Aishah, the Prophet's wife, as he invoked it to object to her leading the Army. (3) The hadith stands in a direct contradiction with the principle of moral and political equality of the sexes, a principle established by numerous Qur'anic verses. (4) Finally, the hadith, being a singular narration (khabar ahad), is of a lesser degree of certainty than the Qur'anic narration (khabar mutawatar), and hence cannot overrule principles established in the Qur'an.

The issue of women leadership is influenced more by cultural, rather than religious, traditions, and hence boils down to rational arguments on psychological differences between the two genders, as well as the impact of full participation of women in public life on the family. The critics of women's participation in leadership functions are fully entitled to express their misgivings with regard to women leadership, but then they should respect the public choice when it supports female leaders. The critics are not, however, entitled to elevate their misgivings and literalist interpretations to the level of formal requirements.

The objection to the election of the first female president of the Islamic Society of North America is borne out of a serious confusion: the Prophet, God's peace and blessings be with him, questioned the wisdom of appointing an inexperienced woman to a leadership position because she happened to be the king's daughter; the Islamic society of North America elected an experienced Muslim leader, with a long track record in leadership and public service.

The article has appeared in the following publications:

Middle East Online
Naseeb Vibes
Official Wire
The American Muslim
Media Monitors Network


Muslimbychoice said...

After lengthy study -- drawn by the beautiful, lucid, vast message - I converted to Islam some 28 years ago.

Many, many thanks -- your work is so heartening in these times. May Allah bless and increase your efforts.

M Khan said...

I must commend you on writing a very elaborate piece on rights of leadership of women. I think it should be made read to a lot of people who still believe in women contribution but cannot fathom to see them in a key role.

However the main problem remain the correct interpretation of the religious guidelines (Qurran and Hadith) keep in context the social, moral and behavioural level of society, which is far more developed now a days where women contribution cannot be ridiculed by declaring them unequal, based on misunderstood text and physical attributes.

Thumbs up and may Allah give guidance to our people to acknowledge and encourage the Muslim women to come forward and help them in making our world to be a better place.

Aliya said...

It is very convenient to use the phrase "in the context of time". Certain verses and injunctions being timebound is a very convenient phrase used indiscrinately by Muslims of today. In my humble opinion, this is applicable to only those verses which command Muslims "kill them wherever you find them", other than that Quran is not temporal and the injunctions of Allah are valid till the end of times.

In the same light when you quote the incidence where the Prophet pbuh commented on a woman being selected to succeed the persian ruler, I beg to differ. The Prophet pbuh's exact words were "No good will ever come to a nation that elects a woman as its leader". This statement is clearly not time bound and very clearcut.

Islam talks of specialisation and division of labor. If a woman is not meant to hold high public offices it is not degradation. Islam honors the home-maker and the mother, whilst allowing the woman intellectual freedom to pursue a career if she so desires. This is something where the west is sorely lacking. The western paradigm has conditioned us to think that a woman is dishonored if she is not working or is not encouraged to hold leadership positions. We tend to forget that Allah SWT created womankind and it is He who knows best what is good or suitable for women. We in our erring logic tend to exceed teh limits of human wisdom and start debating divine wisdom (Naozobillah).

Momtotsan said...

The isnad of hadith about no good coming to the nation who chooses a woman as their leader has been hotly contested by various traditional scholars.

Among the salient points:

Abu Bakra was convited and flogged for slander by Omar ibn-al-Khattab. Abu Bakra falsely accused a well-known companion of adultery. (citation: Ibn al-Athir, Usd al-ghaba fi tamyiz alsahaba (vol. 5, n.d) p.38.)

Thus his testimony should have been disallowed.

Choosa said...

You do not decide which verses are spefici to any given time, rather Allah and the Prophet of Allah make that decision. There are six types of verses in the Quran, and a large part of them are specific to certain incidents and time periods.

Who says women is not to hold high public office, so many women did so at the time of the Prophet and afterwards - please study your Islamic history before suggesting otherwise.

And yes, Islam does honor homemakers, which is why the Prophet was well known for doing many homely tasks, such as fixing his own shoes, sewing, amongst others.

The only people who are erring from the truth and corrupting divine logic are those who deny women the rights which both Allah granted them, and which the Prophet and early Muslims gave them. And may Allah Almighty have mercy and increase us all in knowledge and understanding, amen.

Aliya said...

Hadith were compiled during the Abbassid period about 100-120 years after the prophet pbuh. A very solid methodolgy was applied to screen out hadith as authentic or weak. After very careful examination teh chain of transmission of each hadith was examined and only the ones with a sound chain of transmission were included in the sahih hadith. This particular hadith goes as follows:

"A nation that has entrusted its affairs to a woman can never be successful."(Bukhari vl.5, pg.136, Bukhari vl. 4 Page 97, Nisai vl. 8 Page 227, Tirmidhi vl. 5 Page 457)

If Bukhari, Nisai and Tirmidhi find it authentic so do I and so should you. I dotn know where you got your info from about Abu Bakra's charecter but had that been the case this hadith would not have passed the rigorous test it must have been subjected to. The hadith compilation took many years and we should not create fitnah by doubting hadith that do not suit our version of Islam.


Choosa said...

Many hadith were written at the time of the Prophet by his companions. Some examples:

- Khalid ibn Zaid (d. 52 AH) wrote down hadith and sent them to his nephew . Another member of his family collected hadith from his father, who collected them from Khalid ibn Zaid. This collection consisted of 112 hadith

- Abu bakr al Siqqid (d. 13 AH): He sent a letter to Amr ibn al-Aas which contained hadith . He also wrote a booklet on taxation for Anas ibn Malik, who was the governor of Bahrain, which was a copy of the Prophet's booklet concerning the rates of Zakat

- Nufai ibn Masrud (d. 51 AH): He sent a letter to his son, the Governor of Sijistan, which contained the Prophets sayings relating to the business of justice

- Abu Rafi (d. 40 AH): Ibn Abbas used to go to him and ask him about the Prophet's actions and sayinsg, then eitherhe or his slaves would write the answers down

Imam Bukhari was one of the greater hadith collectors however to say that everything he collected and recorded in his sahih is 100% accurate is sadly common and a truly ignorant view of the process of collecting and evaluting hadith. What he did do, mashallah, was collect and try to authenticate the hadith he collected with the information he had access to. That he spent 2 months tracking down the chain of narration for a single hadith goes to show the great efforts he made mashallah. However, when information reaches us which proves that something fromhis collection is inaccurate we have an obligation to follow the information opposed to blindly and foolishly follow that inaccurate/ fake hadith.

The historical context of the women leader hadith follows:

The third Caliph, Uthman ruled for 11 years. A crown of insurgents, claiming that he was governing the country unjustly, surrounded his house and he was killed by a group who broke in while he was reading the Quran.

When the next Caliph Ali, the Prophets nephew was elected in June 656 AD Medina was in a state of disarray. Many Muslims took up arms because they challenged his selection. Aisha, the Prophets wife took command of them, and, with an army of insurgents, she went forth to fight Ali at Basra a year later at the famous Battle of the Camel.

Ali defeated her, and it was on THIS occassion that the hadith that says 'those who let themselves be led by a woman would fail' was said.

It was said that Abu Bakra, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, who was at this battle said, that he heard Prophet Muhammad say on a previous occassion, when he heard that the daughter of Khosra was made the Queen of Persia, 'Never will succeed a nation that takes a woman as their leader'.

Imam Bukhari was a great scholar of hadith. Of the 600,000 hadith he collected, if you remove the repetitions which number 4,000, he only recorded 7,257 in his great collection, the Sahih of Bukhari. He wasnt simply happy with collecting hadith he wrote texts which focused on the lives of the transmitters of hadith called al-Tarikh al-kabir (The Great History).

When Bukhari returned to his home town, tents were pitched and the whole pouplation came out to welcome him... He stayed a while in Bukhara, and then a conflict arose between him and the amir (ruler) of the city, and he was forced to go into exile. The ruler trying to show the population that he controlled fiqh (religious knowledge), requested that al-Bukhari come to the palace and read to him in private some excerpts from his Sahih. When the messenger relayed this to Bukhari he told him 'Go, tell your master that I hold knowledge in high esteem and I refuse to drag it into the antechambers of sultans'

Not all scholars of hadith held such pride in their work. Some sold themselves for a few dinars. If there were 600,000 hadiths collected by Bukhari, and through his process of authentication he only identified 7,257 which were authentic. That means there were over 596, 752 false hadiths flying round the place.
(600,000 - 7,275 plus 4000 duplicates)

Qadi Ayad classified those collectors of hadith who spoke truth and those who fabricated hadith. He identified two categories. The first group are those who attribute to the Prophet statements which he did not make. This group is subdivided into two: those who lie for material gain and those who lie for ideological advantage.

The second category is those who did not fabricate content of hadith itself, but simply falsified the chain of transmission. For example, they attach onto a weak hadith a very authentic isnad (chain of narration), composed of famous people.

Qadi Iyad later added a third category, those who simply lie, where a person claims to have heard things which he didnt hear, or claims to have met people he never met.

Al-Isbahani, a writer in the 4th century AH (11th century AD) tells us of a deal between a powerful man and a poet whom he asked to fabricate for 4,000 dirhams a poem that he would date back to the time of Prophet Muhammad. The poem was supposed to enhance the image of his clan, the Umayyads, the rival clans to that of Prophet Muhammads. He said, "After writing your verses, say that you heard Ibn Thabit (the Prophets official poet) declaim them in the presence of the Prophet, may the prayer of Allah and His peace be upon him". The poet replied, "I am too afraid of Allah to create lies concerning the Prophet. On the other hand, if you wish, I can say that I heard Aisha recite the verses" The Umayyad not finding Aisha important enough, declined the poets offer, insisting, "I want you to say that you heard Hasan ibn Thabit declaim them before the Prophet while he was seated"

The famous scholar Ibn al-Kalbi, the famous scholar, whose books include a text which refers to the pagan idols of the pre Islamic Arabs, admitted that he once sold a false genealogy. He said that when Khalid ibn Abdullah al-Qasri asked him to tell him about his mother, instead of telling him that she was a prostitute, he fabricated a noble genealogy for him.

Imam Bukhari said that it was Abu Bakra who heard the Prophet say, "Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity"

Who was Abu Bakra? He was a companion who had known the Prophet during his lifetime and who spent enough time with the Prophet to report hadith. According to Abu Bakra, the Prophet announced this hadith when he learned that the Persians had named a woman to rule them. It was then that the Prophet made his statement.

In the 17 volumes of Fath al Bari, Ibn Hajr does a line by line commentary on the Sahih of Bukhari. For each hadith, he gives us the historical classification, the political events that served as background, a description of the battles, the identity of the conflicting parties, the identity of the transmitters and their opinions, and finally the debates concerning their reliability.

Abu Bakra must have had an astonishing memory as he recalled those whords 25 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, at the time that Caliph Ali took Basra, after having defeated Aisha at the battle of the camel.

Before occupying Basra, Aisha went on pilgrimage to Mecca, where she learned the news of the assisination of Uthman in medina and the naming of Ali as the fourth caliph. It was while she was in Mecca that she decided to take command of the army that was challenging the choice of Ali. She was unsure where to go, Kufa or basra. After numerous negotiations and discussions she chose Basra.

Abu Bakra was one of the nobles of the city of Basra, like all of them he was in a difficuly position. Should he take up arms against Ali the cousin of the Prophet, who was challenged, but legitimate, or should he take up arms against Aisha the wife of the Prophet?

Before accepting Islam, Abu Bakra had a hard and humiliating life as a slave in the city of Taif. In the year 8 AH, the Prophet returned to Taif. Having conquered Mecca he put up a strong defence. The Prophet camped outside the city and beseiged the citadel for 18 days. The tribal chiefs however attacked the Muslims and 12 of the Muslim men died. Because of their deaths Prophet Muhammad who wanted a deathless battle, decided to lift the siege and left. before leaving he sent a messenger into the city saying that any slaves to leave the city, when they reach the Muslim army will be set free. A dozen slaves answered his call and Abu Bakra was one of them.

Abu Bakra was very pious and remained so throughout his life. His children were among the notables of Basra as a result of their fortune and erudition.

Abu Bakra used to say to the people around him, "I am your brother in religion" - this was because as a slave, he had no heritage which he could trace.

Could it be that he feared that he would have lost his position of authority if he didn't make his statement?

Abu Musa al-Ashrai one of the companions who sided with Aisha in the battle, after the battle was dismissed from his post and banished to Kufa. He was replaced by a governor who was less of a pacifist. If this what Abu Bakra was scared of?

By making his statement he demonstrated his dislike for Aisha, and thus his support for Ali.

On another occassion, after the assisination of Ali, Muawiya the Umayyad could only legitimately claim the caliphate of Hasan, the son of Ali and thus his successor, if he declared in writing that he renounced his rights. And this he did under pressure and bargaining that were more or less acknowledged. It was at this moment that Abu Bakra remembered a hadith which happened to fit perfectly for the situation. He said that he heard Prophet Muhammad say "Hasan (the son of Ali) will be a man of reconciliation".

For this to have happened historically, Hasan would have been a very small baby when the Prophet said this. And it is interesting

The study of hadith is an important science.

Imam Malik said, "There are some people whom I rejected as narrators of hadith, not because they lied in their role as men of science by recounting false hadith that the Prophet did not say, but just simply because I saw them lying in their relations with people, in their daily relationships that had nothing to do with religion"

If we apply this rule to Abu Bakra, he would have been eliminated as an authentic narrator of hadith as one of the biographies tells us that he was convicted of and flogged for false testimony by Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab.

The incident is as follows. Abu Bakra was one of four witnesses who came before Caliph Umar to make the accusation that a prominent political man, al-Mughiran ibn Shuba engaged in zina (illegal sexual intercourse). The four witnesses said they caught Mughira in the act. Umar began his investigation, and one of the witnesses said that he was actually uncertain as to what he had seen. The doubt of this witness made the others subject to punishment by flogging for slander (qadh), an Abu Bakra was flogged.

If anyone follows the principles of Maliki Fiqh, then Abu Bakra must be rejected as a source of hadith by them, otherwise they arent following the principles of Maliki fiqh.

Even though the hadith was collected as sahih (authentic) by al-Bukhari and others, that hadith was hotly contested and debated by many scholars.

Al-Tabari was one of the scholars who didnt accept it, he did not find it a sufficient basis for depriving women of their power of decision making and for justifying their exclusion from politics.

Was Abu Bakra a man who spoke the truth in this instance? Or did he make a bad decision so he could retain his authority after he lived his early life as an abused slave?

Based on the evidence above, Im inclined to accept the view of Imam Malik on this occassion, and do not take the hadith of Abu Bakra to be reliable, particularly given the circumstances surrounding the statement - and Allah knows best.

If he did make a mistake, which has led to this controversy, may Allah forgive him, and all of us, for we are all human and we all make mistakes. And most certainly Allah is the One who forgives.

The above account was taken from the book, The Veil and the Male Elite by Fatima Mernissi, it is abridged as the full section is very long.

Louay Safi said...

This is very lively discussion. Thank you Choosa for bringing more clarity to the Prophet's statement concerning Buran.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
OmarG2 said...

Salaam, Actually it was me, Omar Gatto who wrote it and not Omer Mozzaffer. I did so in the best traditions of intellectual debate and with full respect for Dr Safi's efforts. I also think Choosa's evidence should be a part of any argument against that purported hadith. Historical data has a role to play in discovering truth, and not just being able to validate isnads. This rocks.

INSIGHT said...

I am posting Omar Gatt's response which was erronously published on September 19th under the name of Omer Mozzaffer. The reponse was first published at



As many of us know by now, ISNA elected Dr Ingrid Mattson as President of that organization. Dr Louay Safi responded to critics of her election who protested electing a woman to such a position. Let's ignore for the time being that some Muslims felt they had the moral obligation to attempt to overturn a democratic election of ISNA's members. Let's also ignore the possible political and public relations motives for advancing a female candidate. I want to engage Dr Safi's arguments and show why he almost made it work and what step he should take to bring his arguments to their logical conclusion. However, I also want to show that such a step would be a bold one that would move the issue away from the Islamist framework.

I first read the article at where Shahed apparently republished it from Dr Safi's own blog. Its a valiant attempt to reinterpret the sources to justify the election results, an attempt that should not have to be made in the first place.

Safi's argument is basically a refutation what he calls the Classical position of denying women the right to lead organizations, institutions, and states. It is clear that he distinguishes between transactions (mu`amalat) and acts of worship (`ibadat). In fact, he must do this because Safi has previously argued against female-led prayer, which is female leadership in an act of worship while leading ISNA is female leadership in transactions. His argument has both a positive argument which uses a Quranic verse to affirm poltical rights for women and a negating component which attempts to refute the famous hadith which tells us affairs will be ruined in the hands of women.

Safi's positive component derives the political rights of women from this verse of the Quran, “The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the intolerable; they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger” (9:71). This is the famous injunction known as "amr bi l-ma`ruf wa an-nahy `an il-munkar" which has been abused by authortarian personalities from among us Muslims for centuries as a license for power over others. But, Safi deftly attempts to derive equal political rights for women from this same verse, including an implicit right to lead organizations.

He states that this verse affirms the "moral and political equality of the sexes, a principle established by numerous Qur’anic verses". I say this verse he interprets does establish moral equality without a doubt, but I must wonder from where does he derive political equality? It is a stretch to say that women gain political authority simply from encouraging good deeds over bad ones. This is, afterall something women and men do all the time in daily life to thier children, to thier peers, freinds and even each other. Only in an overtly political and Islamist reading of this verse can one see this as a political activity akin to the law enforcement fucntions of the state. Without that Islamist framework, Safi's use of this verse cannot make the cut into an argument for female transactional leadership.

I think that appealing to this verse reveals the bankruptcy of resorting to making the texts say what we want them to say. This trend is important to those who desire to base all political actions from Quranic justifications or from the Hadith. I say, why bother? If the texts do not explicitly forbid female leadership in transactive capacities, why should we justify them through the texts. Well, you see there is this little problem of just such a hadith.

The hadith of putting the affairs in the hands of women was dealt with gingerly; Safi can't take the logical step of saying that it is probably false. His strongest argument seems to be that the hadith is an observation of the Prophet's but not an order. Perhaps this is true, but the text strongly connects the cause of putting one's affairs into the hands of women with the effect of being ruined.

Thus, Safi's discounture of this hadith is the right thing to do, but since he won't explicitly declare it a false hadith we are left with beleiving only that the Prophet's saying here is confined to a specific incident, that of the ascension of Anushirwan's daughter Buran as Shah of Persia. In this line of thinking, Safi gives only the statement that the hadith must be interpreted, "in the context of a political culture that places the hereditary rule over the principle of merit in deciding political succession." Does he mean the Prophet said she (Buran) would fail because she simply inherited the office and the most meritorious person was not chosen? Does this mean that the hadith's intent is to oppose hereditary leadership for all time and palces? If so, this would uphold the principle of hadith being applicable to all times and places. Why did the Prophet not just say that, then? Why did we have to wait for Dr Safi to figure this out in 2006?

Or, does Safi mean to say this this comment of the Prophet is confined to a specific incident and not for all time and places? I think he would be violating the political Islamist creed if he tries to say that what the Prophet said is not always relevant to all times and places (that's a progressive-only perogative, apparently)!

However, Safi all but declares it as irrelevant when he should have just said it was probably false. He says, "Finally, the hadith, being a singular narration (khabar ahad), is of a lesser degree of certainty than the Qur’anic narration (khabar mutawatar), and hence cannot overrule principles established in the Qur’an." So, why not take the extra step and declare it false? If one discounts the meaning, why not discount the text completely and irrevocably?

Thus, Dr Safi comes close to making a strong case for discounting the protests against female transactional leadership only when he argues against considering the above mentioned hadith. Nevertheless, he fell short in wholly discounting it by merely saying that the Quran takes precendence rather than dismissing the hadith out of hand. He could have done so by quoting the background, which is purported to be that twenty years after the Prophet supposedly said this, Abi Bakra mentioned this hadith as a barb against Aisha's leading an army and he is the only one to have ever narrated it. His positive argument that derives political meanings such as female political equality from the verse is not as strong. A better approach is to use practical arguments such as Dr Mattson's eminent qualifications for the job, the absence of Quranic evidence against it, and declaring the above hadith as false. Dr Safi comes close, but unfortunately get's no cigar on this one

Johanna-Hypatia said...

Good article, Louay. Jazaka Allahu khayran.

Your analysis along with that of Fatema Mernissi in The Veil and the Male Elite ought to put an end once and for all to such flimsy excuses for imposing inequality on women in Islam. Ought to.


Zommo said...

Dr. Louay wrote: “The following issues must be recalled when interpreting the above hadith: (1) The hadith statement is not given in the form of a directive, but an opinion that has to be understood in its historical and cultural context. That is, the hadith has to be interpreted in the context of a historical society where women were not active participants in political life, and in the context of a political culture that places the hereditary rule over the principle of merit in deciding political succession.”

I am a strong believer in the humanness of the prophet (pbuh) which I believe only stresses his greatness further. However, I do not accept the implication made above which suggests that he lacked perspective; possibly amongst other implications but in my opinion this is the most serious one and which is why I’m pointing it out. This is not at all an emotional protest, because objectively speaking I think we can all agree that throughout his life he (pbuh) lacked anything but perspective. Furthermore, such implications could raise a lot of doubts in people’s hearts greatly undermine the Prophet’s credibility. The consequence of which may be very grave.

The fact that the hadith is regarded as “authentic” does not raise it to the level of objective truth and never will; thus, I would much rather write off the entire hadith based on your latter points 2,3,4, in the remainder of the above excerpt than inadvertently implicate the prophet of lacking perspective while attempting to justify something that may have wrongly been attributed to him in the first place. Otherwise a very pleasant read. Allah indeed knows better.

Khiladi said...

A lot of our conceptions regarding women in Islam is mostly derived from FIQH, and not explicit commands of the shareeah. Further, in early Islam hadeeth were not given as much weight as they are given now.

Also, a distinction between sunnah and hadeeth needs to be made clear. A hadeeth is a historical report, subject to all conditions regarding historical inquiry, including narrator integrity and principles of reason.

A sunnah is a PRACTICE that is WELL-TRODDEN. Nobody picked up a book of hadeeth and learned how to pray. They learned how to pray for their father, who received it from his father, and so on and so on. And this practice was further transmitted by the whole community. This is what is called SUNNAH.

It is the ahl-hadeeth that argue that a sunnah is any hadeeth that is sound. The early people of fiqh did not agree with this, and the former position was actually a LATER DEVELOPMENT as opposed to an early development in Islamic legal thought. This is precisely why one comes across situations where Imam Malik totally ignored a hadeeth, even if it was sound. Sunnah or practice of the scholars of Medina usually held more weight in Maliki thought.

Anonymous said...

a days we are changing the meanings of prophets sayings and quran. as before jews used to change the orders of allah.

woman was not given the high posts at that time but nowin muslim world

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