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Essays, Feminism, Islam

Do Muslims Need a Feminist Theology?

The following paper was first delivered in Frankfurt (Germany) at Goethe University’s conference: “Horizons of Islamic Theology” convened in 2014 by the Centre for Islamic Studies (Zentrum für Islamische Studien). The panel was entitled ‘Feminist Theology – Islamic Feminism – Muslim Feminism’, and I was asked to present on the title, “Do Muslims Need a Feminist Theology”. This piece was developed further and delivered variously in the UK, New Zealand, and Malaysia.

Since I have been asked to speak on this topic on multiple occasions, I have decided to share the below past piece in the hopes that it might benefit Muslims who wish to engage and build on this topic. When ‘Muslim feminists’ themselves claim that particular aspects of Islamic theology need to be reinterpreted or ignored when they do not line up with feminist sensibilities, they are attempting to formulate a “feminist theology” to replace Islamic theology. By doing so, however, such feminists themselves demonstrate that Islam and feminism are not compatible. 

The following piece not only refutes the idea of a “feminist theology”, but also highlights some examples of the incompatibilities between Islamic theology and a feminist theology. 


Do Muslims Need a Feminist Theology?

Zara Faris

 

The matter of women’s rights has never been the exclusive preserve of feminists, so questioning feminism and its methods, as this discussion will do, is not tantamount to questioning the need to safeguard women’s rights as defined by an ideology other than feminism. This discussion does not enquire as to whether particular sections of women are in need of liberation or not; the rampant social injustice that is faced by both women and men in the post-colonial Muslim world today is plain to see, and the domino-effect of oppression between ruler, man, woman, and child is recognised as being not due to the implementation of Islamic rights, but due to the absence of this. The Muslim world is presently afflicted by a failure to retain the holistic wisdom of the text and its application, and its situation is exacerbated by the sustained attempted subversion of Islam with foreign ideological interventions that ultimately abolish the text. There are those who advocate the revival of Islam by way of solution, who consider Islam as the object of the solution, and there are those who advocate a reformation of Islam, who consider Islam as the subject of an imported solution.

Whilst a detailed diagnosis of the condition of the Muslim world is beyond the scope of this discussion, it can be observed by way of summary that the Muslim world presently exhibits the traumas resulting from the post-colonial amputation of Islam from the education system, resulting in a broadly superficial, shallow understanding of Islam far removed from the way that Islam was classically understood, giving rise to injustices against both women and men. In turn, a shallow thinking has caused some to imitate the ideas and way of life of their former colonisers and, in particular, the ideology of secular liberalism and its gendered offshoot, feminism. It is in this milieu that those seeking to articulate this borrowed ideology through the medium of Islam, might propose and advocate the notion of a “feminist theology”. It is the feasibility of this “feminist theology” that will be the subject of this discussion.

The need for some remedy is abundantly clear, but it becomes equally clear, upon the analysis presented in this discussion, that a “feminist theology” would be detrimental as any such remedy. This discussion will demonstrate the inherent contradictions of, and paradoxical consequences that ensue from, attempts at a “feminist theology” project. As we will see, the endeavour of theology is God-centric, but feminism is gender-centric, rendering the term “feminist theology” oxymoronic.

This discussion will make reference to the holy text of Islam, the Qur’ān, the reported actions, speech, and tacit approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), known as the Prophetic Traditions, narrations, or hadīth, and the Islamic legal system more broadly, or sharī’ah.

Theology is the study of the Will of God, not the will of man (or woman)

Assessing the utility of a “feminist theology” necessitates an understanding of its method. It must be borne in mind throughout this discussion that the purpose of theology is the study of God and His Will; this study is occupied solely with attempting to understand the Will of the Creator, not the will of the created. It would follow, then, that unless “feminist theology” is concerned with studying the Will of God, a “feminist theology” would not fulfil the purpose of theology.

Whilst theology is the study of God and His Will, feminism is about the human will of feminists. A “feminist theology” ultimately usurps the narratives that theology may provide between man and God, and prioritises the will of man (or woman) over the will of God. Prioritising the human will over that of the Creator can be said to be the very same cause of the oppression that we see today. The repercussions of this prioritisation in theology, which are to be discussed below, are two: firstly, feminism prejudices or skews the method of theology and, secondly, feminism presupposes the conclusions it seeks to find in theology.

Feminism prejudices the method of theology

Louder voices

One of the primary claims of feminists who engage in the interpretation of Islamic texts, or the study thereof, is that male voices have drowned out the Will of God. According to such feminists, Islamic scholarship has been a male dominated, or patriarchal, enterprise that has, deliberately or incidentally, subordinated and deprived women of their due rights. Contemporary academic, Dr Shuruq Naguib, states, “when Muslim women stand before the Qur’an to hear the divine discourse they also hear the voices of male interpreters”, and that, “ [t]o hear the Qur’an without the mediation of men, some Muslim feminists choose to suppress the male voices in order to recover what they perceive to be an originally liberating and egalitarian divine message”.[1]

It is, first of all, unclear how this muting would be achieved and what such a muting would result in; the Qur’ān does not speak of its own accord when it is not read or recited, and if male voices are biased, why is it believed that female voices will necessarily produce an “egalitarian divine message”? Are female voices or interpretations considered by such feminists to be superior to men’s in what is, essentially, an intellectual endeavour? If it is argued that male readings remain incomplete due to the absence of a female reading, are female readings then similarly incomplete? To claim that sex produces distortion in intellectual endeavours is a sexist claim. Understanding scripture does not require gender or chromosomes, but rather it requires intellect — something that both sexes possess. Unless the feminist proposition is to in some way start anew, it is unclear how such feminists propose to arbitrarily filter out only male voices from the intellectual heritage of Islam.

Historically, Islam has never considered the gender of interpreters to be important, but rather only the quality of the interpretation and its accuracy to the texts. Consider, for example, that the heritage of intellectual Islam boasts highly accomplished and renowned scholars, in the thousands, who happen to have been female. The contemporary Shaykh Akram Nadwi has documented at least eight thousand Muslim female scholars across global history, and that is in the field of hadīth sciences alone.[2] Because Islam does not make sexist differentiations between male and female intellects, both male and female students are reported to have congregated to learn from these intellects, sometimes even crowding around a female scholar’s home to learn from her. Notable male scholars are reported to have taken knowledge from female scholars, such male scholars including Ibn Taymiyyah[3], al-Dhahabi,[4] Imam Shafi’i[5], Imam Malik[6], Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal[7], Imam Abu Hanifa[8] and even the caliph, Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwan[9]. In the past cities of Central Asia (then ‘Transoxania’) it is reported that a legal opinion, or fatwa, would only be issued from a house if it had the signatures of the householder and his daughter, his wife or his sister.[10] Not only have female scholars thus undeniably played a prominent and critical role in the development of Islamic law, or sharī’ah, as we know it today, but Islamic courts were so renowned for guaranteeing justice for women that, during the Ottoman Caliphate, even women of other religious communities preferred to have their matters dealt with in the Islamic courts.[11]

So irrelevant was gender to the transmission and development of Islamic thought that there are even instances where female scholars held opinions which might be considered disadvantageous to herself as a woman, and whilst her opinion was considered valid, other male scholars would take alternative, legitimate opinions that were more advantageous to the woman. It is reported, for example, that Fatima bint Qays used to narrate a tradition in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised her that, in her situation, her ex-husband did not have an obligation to cover her expenses after they divorced.[12] There are discussions amongst other scholars around the particular circumstances of her case that would have caused the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to tell her this. Whilst the reliability of her narration is not considered questionable, what is interesting is that numerous others, including the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Zayd ibn Thabit, and numerous later scholars and jurists, held that divorced women were entitled to receive upkeep, and they based this on other evidences, with Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and to whom is attributed a vast corpus of hadīth narrations, providing detail as to why Fatima bint Qays’ particular case was treated the way it was. Despite the fact that Fatima bint Qays knew that the hadīth could be considered to be detrimental to her own position, she earnestly narrated it. Further, despite the opportunity that male jurists have had since then to exploit the narration of Fatima bint Qays, and apply it to all women, which is what one might expect them to do if they were truly male-biased, male scholars have opted for the opinions which are more advantageous to women. Are these the male voices that feminists would deem need to be silenced or filtered out by way of a feminist theology?

Conversely, or ironically, Muslim feminists quite readily employ male voices if those male voices align with feminist ideas — for example, the oft-cited works of Qasim Amin.[13] Ziba Mir-Hosseini describes the male reformists, Tahir Al-Haddad, Fazlur Rahman, and Nasr Abu Zayd as “the backbone of feminist scholarship in Islam, which is taking reformist thought onto new ground”.[14] The feminist assertion, that they are trying to eliminate male bias from Islamic scholarship, in effect results in a redacting of many of the female voices from Islamic history, and an obstruction of the objective considerations of justice. This points instead to a drive to affirm feminist ideals first, whether through voices male or female. A “Feminist theology” becomes merely a filter for selected content, being not about the gender of voices, or supposedly discovering the voice through which the Will of God is truly expressed but, rather, “feminist theology” is about expressing the will of feminism in the loudest voice.

Authenticity

Advocates of a “feminist theology” commonly assert that, because it is a matter of “human interpretation”, there is no single authentic, authoritative, or objective version of Islam and that it is dangerous to assert that there is one.[15] Such advocates will lament the phrases “Islam is”, and even “the Qur’ān says”.[16] In other words, the claim put forth by many Muslim feminists is that there is no one interpretation of the Will of God and, in arguing this, such a claim attempts to make room for, or legitimise, the existence of a feminist reading of Islam. However, such an argument is in effect counterproductive for feminist advocates, for if there is no one authoritative interpretation of Islam, then any and all interpretations are equally valid. On this basis, a “feminist interpretation” would be as valid as a misogynistic or patriarchal one. Feminists may respond that others readily exploit this opportunity for their own ends, and that their interpretations should therefore be given no credence — but, if there is no one authoritative version of Islam as is claimed by many feminists, who has a mandate to declare who is sincere in their interpretation and who is not, and who has a mandate to condemn another with the charge of exploiting Islam for their own purposes?

As such, not only does the claim that Islam is open to any interpretation unjustly reduce a sophisticated body of theological sciences to as vague and hokum a process as reading tea leaves, but the use of this assertion backfires and leaves the foundations of a “feminist theology” no more credible than those of violent terrorists, accused misogynists, and even fascists. If feminists have relegated the Will of God to possibly meaning anything that can be imagined based on ones disposition, not unlike a Rorschach test, then it is simply the case, again, that the loudest voice wins out.

Ironically, unlike Islam, feminism has no holy book, no code or canon, nor authoritative body to arbitrate what is authentically feminism and what is not. This leaves us with the absurd but accurate realisation that feminism is more unclear, confused and subject to interpretation than it can claim to be the case with Islam. In light of this, one should fail to see the use of trying to see into apparently muddy waters by using an even muddier lens.

Of course, the premise that the Qur’ān is somehow vulnerable to multiple interpretations is false. The Qur’ān, which describes itself as clear, or mubīn, may be open to interpretations in many details, but cannot be open to any interpretation, nor interpretations which contradict its most clearly conveyed apparent meanings. To argue otherwise is to argue that God is a bad communicator, who cannot correctly express His Intent. For example, one cannot argue that the Qur’ān advocates polytheism any more than one can argue that, as a general rule, the Qur’ān does not give two-thirds inheritance to males — no matter how skilled ones mental gymnastics may be. Exceptions to general rules are stipulated either in the Qur’ān or by way of hadīth as being exceptions to the general rule and therefore conditional on certain circumstances. Thus, many of the clear prescriptions and proscriptions in the Qur’ān are straightforward and, being general commands, are not context specific. Any ambiguities present usually arise from details and exceptions, for which the explanations and examples of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are relied upon to provide clarification.

It should be noted that for many feminists it is also unacceptable that legal interpretation should be the exclusive remit of jurists on the basis that this exclusivity imagines jurists to be infallible. It is, however, easily pointed out that it is because all human intellect is accepted as being fallible, which is further magnified by ignorance, that it is considered necessary to reserve legal interpretation for those satisfying certain minimum intellectual qualifications.

Islam and feminism are not compatible, according to Muslim feminists

A “feminist theology” also presupposes the idea that there is some congruence or compatibility between feminism and Islam. However, it can be observed that feminist reformists have themselves realised that certain feminist ideas cannot be satisfied solely through the reinterpretation of texts, and the feminist complaint now relates to more than simply the interpretation of sources, but rather the sources themselves, i.e. the Qur’ān and Prophetic Tradition. The mere fact that some opt to call themselves “Muslim Feminists” is not proof that Islam and feminism are compatible, but that humans are capable of cognitive dissonance. One of the greatest ironies is that such feminists regularly affirm, through their own work, that feminism and Islam are not compatible unless Islam changes to fit feminist ideas, rendering the notion of a “feminist theology” an impossible one, let alone one of utility.

For example, Ayesha Chaudhry openly advocates the cherry-picking of hadīth, arguing that, since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is at once depicted as both a “radical, egalitarian man” and “a patriarchal man who belonged and was comfortable in seventh-century Arabia”, one could choose which respective traditions to adopt from. She states, “In employing Prophet Muhammad’s prophetic practice selectively to support a gender-egalitarian vision of Islam, Muslim feminists would be doing exactly what Muslim scholars did when using prophetic practice to support patriarchal perspectives of Islam.”[17] Kecia Ali also argues that contemporary believers are permitted to adopt prophetic practice when this practice conforms to what she defines as contemporary ethics, but to repudiate it when it contradicts them.[18]

We have already observed above the problem that this approach runs into – if, according to feminists, there is no one authoritative version of Islam, then who has a mandate to filter the prophetic tradition in any way? Muslim feminists may simply respond that this feminist reading is merely about allowing the discourse, or the conversation, to occur, rather than imposing any particular interpretation. Again, not only would this thought experiment be of limited utility, but such a response would be disingenuous. Feminists like Chaudhry state that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did the best that he could to create gender egalitarianism, but “without fulfilling this vision in his lifetime”. In other words, Chaudhry imputes to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) a particular mission that she seems to suggest is up to Muslim feminists to complete. This is clearly beyond the remit of the theological endeavour to understand the Will of God, and far more presumptuous than mere discourse.

Amina Wadud, a founder of the feminist organisation in Malaysia, Sisters in Islam, claimed that for explicit verses of the Qur’ān for which feminists cannot find alternative explanations, the possibility of rejecting these verses should be considered. She states “Personally, I have come to places where how the text says what it says is just plain inadequate or unacceptable, however much interpretation is enacted upon it”, and she says further, that where particular articulations in the Qur’ān as a text are problematic, there is the “possibility of refuting the text, to talk back, to even say “no””.[19] Omaima Abou Bakr elaborates that “[w]hilst previously such researchers have tried to resolve this difficulty by drawing attention to the general ‘principles’ of the Qur’an as a frame of reference”, Wadud “takes the issue to another level”, in that “[t]he ‘letter’ of the divine text remains a problem and it is time to stop grappling with it”. She explains that Wadud’s perspective “would be a means to avoid literal application or implementation of a text when it opposes our current, more progressive human development and understandings”.[20] Again, Ali also suggests that “the Qur’ānic text itself requires Muslims to sometimes depart from its literal provisions in order to establish justice”.[21]

By constantly demanding that Islam must change, feminism itself indicates, if not protests, that feminism is not compatible with Islam. This renders the idea of a “feminist theology” to be impossible, let alone of utility to Muslims.

Feminists study theology only to justify a preconceived conclusion

Morality

The study of theology, being the study of the Will of God, and not man, requires one to be detached from prejudice, pre-judgment, or agenda, in order to attain the purpose of the study – accuracy and truth.

However, this task is made difficult, if not actively subverted, by the set of pre-judged conclusions with which feminists tend to approach Islamic texts. Now, studying the Will of God, of course, ought to include God’s Will about morality because morality must be sourced from an objective truth. If morality was innate or intuitive, then people would not hold different ideas about morality or differ with each other. Indeed, the entire system of court adjudication would be unnecessary. If people could all intuit morality, not only would there be no ideological differences, but revelation itself would not be needed at all.

The feminist yardstick for concluding what is moral, however, is not objective, but admittedly external from the objective truth of Islam. Asma Barlas, for example, openly declares that her method of determining if the Qur’ān’s teachings are “ethical and egalitarian” is to combine the Qur’ān’s view of egalitarianism and justice with feminist theories.[22] Mir-Hosseini states that “Muslim reformist thinkers have tried to reconcile what they understood to be fundamental principles in Muslim law and ethics with modernist conceptions of justice and gender relations”.[23] Others use Western conceptions of human rights as their framework, and others invoke vague references to “contemporary ethics”.

Wadud talked about the frustrations that feminists feel when, as Wadud suggests, they have to pretend to advocate feminism from an Islamic perspective and not a secular liberal one. She writes, “The executive director of Sisters in Islam, Zainah Anwar, once asked, “Why can’t we say we are working for gender justice from a human rights perspective” instead of our earlier claim of working from a gender-inclusive Islamic perspective? Quite honestly, I understand the frustrations”.[24] In other words, these feminists are not acting as interpreters, or even re-interpreters, but as secular liberal interpolators.

Instead of reviving classical Islamic understandings and inspiring creative liberators, the result of this feminist undertaking is the further stripping away of Islamic mechanics and safeguards for justice. In effect, rather than guiding Muslim societies out from their post-colonial condition, this feminist undertaking serves to complete the colonial project by pushing for the increased imitation of Western ideologies. The effect is that the Qur’ān is being used to bring Muslims towards secular liberalism in the same way that some missionaries of other religions use the Qur’ān, in what’s known as “the camel method”, to try to convert Muslims to a religion other than Islam.

Given that the problems in the Muslim world exist due to its post-colonial state, a “feminist theology” that propounds the same ideology that fuelled post-colonialism is unlikely to be of benefit to the Muslim world.

Individualism

An example of one of the liberal ideas held by feminists is the liberal ideal of individualism or, in other words, maximising one’s own autonomy. This means that feminists, who need to argue that Islam is male-biased, cannot explain why in Islam a woman has a right over her husband’s time, money, and even his body, and so they cannot accept the Islamic rulings on inheritance, spousal obligations, rulings on family leadership, and modesty.

Islamic law recognises that no human is an island; we do not give birth to ourselves, wean or raise ourselves, nor can continue to exist without depending on others or on the environment; we cannot even learn language, speech, or communication by ourselves. Thus, Islam seeks to facilitate the mutual reliance that is inevitable between people by establishing reciprocal rights and duties between them, including between men and women. Any advantages that are conferred upon a member of society, therefore, come with commensurate accountabilities and responsibilities; weaknesses are accommodated for with rights. The idea of leadership or power is not considered to be a virtue to be sought after in Islam, for Islam recognises it as a position of responsibility and accountability, rather than one of honour or privilege. Through this, equality between people is preserved whatever the role.

Thus, in the Qur’ān, God repudiates those who consider themselves self-sufficient,[25] and reveals by way of example that mankind will be called to account for our deeds in the hereafter in nations (ummāt), not merely by oneself,[26] and that wrongdoers will argue with each other, blaming one another, whilst standing before God.[27] The Qur’ān provides that the burdens borne on the Day of Resurrection will not only be one’s own, but also those whom anyone helped to misguide.[28]

One can only wonder how much ‘autonomy’ such feminists think that any of the Prophets of Islam had when they were charged with the duty of revelation. One can only wonder how much ‘autonomy’ such feminists think Maryam (as) had when she was charged with the duty of bearing Isa (as) in her womb.

Whilst feminism popularly advocates “intersectionality” in diagnosing problems, it further fails to appreciate the interconnectedness and checks and balances that exist in the sharī’ah. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said, “Each one of you is a shepherd. And each of you will be asked about your flock. A ruler also is a shepherd and he will be asked about his flock. And every man is a shepherd to his family. And every woman is the custodian of her husband’s house and his children. Thus each one of you is a shepherd and each one will be asked about his flock.”[29] In Islam, when a ruler is given authority over the people, he is not given sovereignty, nor can he do as he wishes, sovereignty remains only with God. The authority given carries with it a duty to implement God’s law. When a man is given authority over his family, he is not given sovereignty, nor can he do as he wishes, sovereignty remains only with God. The authority given carries with it a duty to implement God’s law. In any case of authority, the authority must exist in order for accountability to exist.

Feminists, however, dispute this concept of authority and advocate increased power for women. Wadud, Barlas, and Fatima Mernissi variously argue that Islam does not prevent women from taking roles as leaders, and even that, in one household, both the male and female can have equal authority. The idea of male authority or responsibility over women appears to be an affront to the feminist autonomy or individualism or (false) sense of self-sufficiency (which no human being can claim to possess). Wadud and Asma Lamrabet argue that the Islamic injunction for a wife to obey her husband (in what is permitted under the sharī’ah, or halāl) contradicts the oneness of God, as they claim that obedience is for God alone.[30] If obedience to the husband constitutes idolatry then, according to such feminists, a boy obeying his mother would also be idolatry, being a law abiding citizen would be idolatry, and a Muslim obeying the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), which the Qur’ān explicitly commands, would also be idolatry.

There is also the feminist attempt to interpolate the concept of musāwah into readings of the Qur’ān, in what can be seen as an attempt to align the Qur’ān with the Western conception of equality. Interestingly, the Qur’ān does not use the word musāwah or its derivatives except when saying how things are not equal, for example belief and disbelief. Rather, the Qur’ān recognises that no two people, regardless of gender, are given the same provisions, blessings, or tests and, in the afterlife, people are to be ranked and rewarded differently. People are treated with and promised justice in the Qur’ān, not a blanket equality that ignores difference.

Due to the pre-conceived conclusions carried by feminism that feminists would bring to a “feminist theology”, it can be seen that, rather than focusing on comprehending the Will of God, the focus of “feminist theology” is instead diverted to “reconciling” Islam with these pre-conceived notions.

Conclusion

If the purpose of theology is to study the Will of God, then we can see that a “feminist theology” is about the human will of feminists and its preoccupation with borrowed ideas. As a remedy, a “feminist theology” is not feasible, and does not fulfil the purpose of theology. The repercussions of this are two: firstly, feminism prejudices or skews the method of theology and, secondly, feminism presupposes the conclusions it seeks to find in theology. Ultimately, the endeavour of theology is God-centric, but feminism is gender-centric, rendering the term “feminist theology” oxymoronic, for which the Muslim world has no need.

“What is [the matter] with you? How do you judge? Or do you have a book in which you learn that you shall have through it whatever you choose?”  – The Holy Qur’an (68:36-38)


NOTES

[1] Naguib, Shuruq. Horizons and Limitations of Muslim Feminist Hermeneutics: Reflections on the Menstruation Verse, in New Topics in Feminist Philosophy of Religion, Pamela Sue Anderson, ed., Springer Netherlands (2010), p. 33.

[2] See Nadwi, Sh. Akram. Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, Interface Publications (2013).

[3] Ibid., p. 99.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibn Khallikan. Wafayat al-A’yan, Beirut, Dar al-Thaqafa (1968), 5:432-24.

[6] Nadwi, Sh. Akram. Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, Interface Publications (2013), p. 283.

[7] See Sonbol, Amira El Azhary. Women of the Jordan: Islam, Labor, and the Law, Syracuse University Press (2003), p. 65.

[8] Nadwi, Sh. Akram. Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, Interface Publications (2013), p. 142-43

[9] Ibid., p. 179

[10] al-Qurashi, Abd al-Qadir b. Abi al-Wafa. Al-Jawahir al-Mudiyyah fi Tabaqat al-Hanafiyyah, Cairo: Hajr li-l-Tiba’ah wa-l-Nashr (1993), Vol. iv, Kitab un-Nisa, pp. 120. Also see Nadwi, Sh. Akram. Notes for a talk on the women scholars of hadith, www.interfacepublications.com. Web. 25 Aug. 2014, p. 13.

[11] Jenie R. Ebeling, Lynda Garland, Guity Nashat, Eric R. Dursteler. Smith, Bonnie G, ed. “West Asia, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, Oxford University Press (2008).

[12] See Nadwi, Sh. Akram. Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, Interface Publications (2013), pp. 5-6.

[13] For example, Qasim Amin’s The Liberation of Women (1899).

[14] Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Challenge of Gender Equality in Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger, ed. Oxford, Oneworld (2015), p. 35.

[15] For example, Kecia Ali describes formulating the sharī’ah as “a human product with a human history negotiated in a human context”. See Ali, Kecia. Whose Sharia Is It?, feminismandreligion.com, 2014. Web. 28 May 2014.

[16] Mir-Hosseini writes, “A mono-lithic view of Islam still dominates both popular and academic discourses. Too often we hear statements beginning Islam is,” “the Koran says,” or according to Islamic law or sharia.Too rarely do those who speak in the name of Islam admit that theirs is no more than one opinion or interpretation among many. The holy texts, and the laws derived from them, are matters of human interpretation.” Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism, Critical Enquiry, Vol. 32, No. 4 (2006), pp. 631-632.

[17] Chaudhry, Ayesha S. Producing Gender-Egalitarian Islamic Law – A Case Study of Guardianship (Wilayah) in Prophetic Practice in Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger, ed. Oxford, Oneworld (2015), p. 93.

[18] Ali, Kecia. A Beautiful Example: The Prophet Muhammad as a Model for Muslim Husbands, Islamic Studies 43 (2) (2004), pp. 273-91. See also Clarke, Lynda. Hijab According to the Hadith Text and Interpretation in The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates. Sajida Sultana Alvi, Homa Hoodfar, and Sheila McDonough, ed. Toronto, Women’s Press (2003), pp. 214-286.

[19] Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad, Oxford, Oneworld (2006), p. 209.

[20] Abou-Bakr, Omaima. The Interpretive Legacy of Qiwamah as an Exegetical Construct in Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger, ed. Oxford, Oneworld (2015), pp. 60-61

[21] Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence, Oxford, Oneworld (2006), p. 55

[22] Asma Barlas states, “Evaluating the Qur’an’s teachings leads one to ask: Whose perspective and definition are we to apply if we are to determine if these teachings are ethical and egalitarian — those of the Qur’an itself or of (Muslim and Western) patriarchies, feminists, or some combination? This is a critical question since different perspectives yield different assessments. For instance, those who accept the Qur’an’s own line of reasoning and its view of what is egalitarian generally consider its teachings progressive; on the other hand those who derive their ideas from Western/feminist theories generally consider the Qur’an’s teachings oppressive […] my own method, therefore, is to combine them. Thus, I accept the Qur’an’s own view of egalitarianism and justice […] I also situate and assess the Qur’an’s teachings in light of some modern, feminist theories. That is, I start my reading of the Qur’an in the first mode and end my argument in the second.” Barlas, Asma. “Believing Women” in Islam, Austin, University of Texas Press (2002), p. 169

[23] Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Challenge of Gender Equality in Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger, ed. Oxford, Oneworld (2015), pp. 17-18

[24] Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad, Oxford, Oneworld (2006), p. 191

[25] “Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds, In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient.” Qur’ān (96:6-7)

[26] “And you will see every nation kneeling [from fear]. Every nation will be called to its record [and told], “Today you will be recompensed for what you used to do.’’” Qur’ān (45:28)

[27] “And those who disbelieve say, “We will never believe in this Qur’ān nor in that before it.” But if you could see when the wrongdoers are made to stand before their Lord, refuting each other’s words… Those who were oppressed will say to those who were arrogant, “If not for you, we would have been believers.”” Qur’ān (34:31)

[28] “And verily, they (i.e. the evil souls) shall bear their own loads, and other loads besides their own, and verily, they shall be questioned on the Day of Resurrection about that which they used to fabricate.” Qur’ān (29:13). “That they may bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection and some of the burdens of those whom they misguide without knowledge. Unquestionably, evil is that which they bear.” Qur’ān (16:25).

[29] Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)

[30] See Lamrabet, Asma. An Egalitarian Reading of the Concepts of Khilafah, Wilayah, and Qiwamah in Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger, ed. Oxford, Oneworld (2015), p. 81. Also see Wadud, Amina. Islam Beyond Patriarchy through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis, in Wanted: Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family. Zainah Anwar, ed. Pataling Jaya, Musawah (2009), pp.95-110.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Do Muslims Need a Feminist Theology?

  1. You Should have more debates on this topic. I would love to watch any debate with you in it. Very educational to young woman like myself.

    Posted by hajar | February 7, 2018, 2:21 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Review/Discussion—Women in the Qur’an by Asma Lamrabet and translated by Myriam Francois-Cerrah | Muslim Reads - April 8, 2018

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