Misogyny: Culture or Religion?

A friend recently sent me this article  written by Ida Lichter, author of Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression.  She presents the argument that the misogyny found in some Muslim communities are the result of culture rather than scripture. Here’s an excerpt:

However, many Muslims say culture, not religion, is the real issue. This is not simply a theoretical concern but relevant to the urgent search for reform within Islam.

In many Muslim societies, Islamic law deems women inferior to men. A woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man, and her independence is restricted by seclusion in the home, laws of guardianship by male kin, polygamy and unilateral divorce.

Women are compelled to marry Muslim men and can be beaten by their husbands if they misbehave. Many secular women reformers insist these restrictions, derived from holy texts, are inimically hostile to women’s rights. To effect change, they say, Islam must be transformed rather than reformed and civil law should evolve from the people, not religion. Some such activists have been labeled heretics and agents of the West, incurring death threats from violent Islamists.

However, Muslim women reformers say culture is the problem, and like Zainah Anwar, intrepid Malaysian activist of Sisters in Islam, they add that, “the law might be divine but the interpretation is human.”

These women contend authentic Islam is egalitarian and early Islam ended female infanticide and brought women freedoms such as property rights.

There is little doubt that culture has played a role in the subjugation of women while claiming  religious grounds for patriarchal practices when there are none. However, moderate and liberal Muslim reformers also fail to recognize the existence of contextual proofs for many of the practices that are discriminatory to women.

It is explicit within the Quranic texts that women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, that the male has guardianship over her, that the male may engage in polygamy, that he may beat her as a last resort for her disobedience and that she will recieve half of her parents inheritence. While there does exist some engaging, if not convincing apologia regarding the validity and meaning of these verses, the fact remains that the verses exist and are at the core of the problem.

Islam did provide rights to women that were not previously available to women. However, some Muslim feminists and intellectuals are challenging that claim and as an example, Khadija did quite well as a successful and strong woman before the coming of Islam. But no argument can be complete without balancing some of the more problematic verses with the general spirit of  justice inherent in Islam. Our current religious doctrine does not leave any room for honest exegetical criticism of  the Quran. Most Muslims believe the Quran is the unchanging, verbatim word of God and how can one argue with that? It’s not surprising that the scales  lean more heavily toward the literal embodiment of the text, rather than an acceptance of the overall message.  And this will always be problematic for women.

It’s not enough to claim that culture is the sole problem. Those looking to reform Islam and Muslim communities must tackle the verses head on and engage in an honest discussion of their meaning and their place within our modern societies.

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65 responses to “Misogyny: Culture or Religion?

  1. It’s not enough to claim that culture is the sole problem. Those looking to reform Islam and Muslim communities must tackle the verses head on and engage in an honest discussion of their meaning and their place within our modern societies. THIS.

    I remember the exact day when my love affair with apologia ended, the veil was lifted from my eyes and I saw problematic patriarchal verses for what they truly are. I took things poorly and had a right tantrum on the phone with my my husband, literally kicking and screaming at how upset I was that, really, how can anyone explain away slavery in Islam, polygamy, inheritance inequities, etc? And they are explained away, oh so easily. If only we had a true Islamic system where the rich cared for the poor, husbands provided for their wives (who could work it they wanted to), and where women only got a small portion of inheritance because she has a shariah-compliant interest building bank account, and she is not required to spend from it to take care of the family. And it doesn’t really say to beat your wives, 14, 200 years of scholarship got it wrong, it’s only in the past 50 years that translators have finally got things right.

    I just couldn’t buy it anymore — even when the inequities are compared to the raised rights of women and grand examples of strong females (who became only simple historical figures and examples, instead of grand archetypes that every person could expect to follow and uphold).

  2. WT : how did you get through/past the point where you recognized the problematic verses as truly problematic?

    Steph: Are the translations part of the problem? The verses about female witnesses and punishment of the wife are pretty upsetting to me. I got past it, so I thought- because I wasnt married and pittied the fool….who charged at me with miswak. That said, my husband is a sensible and gentle person, a role model for my son. I have a tiny girl now. I love both of my children with every cell in my body, but I have this very intense sense of protection over my daughter, that is even stronger than that over my son. Is that fair? its instinctual, perhaps because we are both female…..but I have to make sure she has a good handle on religion, because it is not OK for her or any other woman to be beaten. Ever.

    Steph: Awesome vocab. I use a dictionary when reading posts from you or WT 🙂

    • yes WT pray tell….cuz that’s what I’m trying to figure out and you might be able to save me alot of time and misery 🙂
      @mm–well, i concede that any text will lose meaning with translation. I read many different translations at one time. still don’t think that you can translate away the 2 witnesses things or many other things. some people think that dharaba (translated as to beat lightly) actually means to seperate themselves from. I think they’re deluding themselves personally but it sounds nice. To my knowledge the classicals scholars didn’t interpret it as such and they are the closest to the source.

    • I haven’t gotten past it unfortunately and sometimes long for the days when I was young, new and naive.

      At first because this “revelation” of patriarchy and read misogyny the Quran was so new and revolutionary for me, it was easy to get all empowered woman raging against the text. I was in the beginnings of my masters in islamic studies and surrounded by practicing Muslims (academics and students) who also raged. We were puffed up with analysis, direct access to the historical scholars, and it was easy to make fun of their interpretations. Almost like my brain cordoned off the sacredness of the Quran and raged against the scholars instead.

      But after a while you start questioning. Why did God include these problematic verses? Because the revelation was catering to 7thC Arabs steeped in patriarchy? Because God really hated women? Because equality is only spiritual and anyone saying otherwise is just reading in modern nationalism, democracy and equal rights where there really isn’t any?

      It became too difficult to deal with these passages, without either buying into mistranslations, like Stephanie mentioned – believing daraba tanslates to separation – or just ignoring them. Sometimes it helps to look at Hadith. For surely God didn’t intend to include wife beating, if the Prophet himself abhorred hurting women. It must mean separation, since that’s what the Prophet did when the ladies got right nasty. Right? But in other cases, turning to Hadith can be worse — and doesn’t negate the fact that daraba exists unexplained in the text.

      So I ignored them and only dealt with them when I really had to. But say these difficult passages are only difficult because I “don’t have enough imaan” or because they’ve been misunderstood by misogynist scholars — regardless of what God intended, these passages are used to enslave and subjugate women. And speaking out against these practices became more important to me than reconciling my faith.

      Now I’m trying to do both. Sorry Stephanie, it’s been 4 years and I’m still grappling with them. Hense the need for more women to openly discuss these passages. Yay blogosphere.

  3. Ahh. Its iMuslimah from blogger. Long story. Confusing. Ive been pondering wordpress forever. Will be shutting down blogspot soon ,as it resembles nothing I ever intended.

  4. unsettledsoul

    WT,

    “So I ignored them and only dealt with them when I really had to. But say these difficult passages are only difficult because I “don’t have enough imaan” or because they’ve been misunderstood by misogynist scholars — regardless of what God intended, these passages are used to enslave and subjugate women. And speaking out against these practices became more important to me than reconciling my faith. ”

    I am in total agreement with this. In fact, justice for women and homosexuals has completely outweighed my needs for reconciling my faith, and has instead separated me from organized religion as a whole. I too can no longer bend to interpretations just so I can feel better about my faith or religion in general. I have found I need to break from problematic interpretations completely, reject them completely, as they enslave and subjugate and oppress for too many women and gay people in this world.

  5. Sarah

    hmmm.. Misogyny exists in all cultures and religions, all colours and races, and its not because they are following a certain text, its because the men themselves have a problem, regardless of whether they picked up a Qur’an or not. I might also point out that slavery was abolished gradually, just as alcohol was. Polygamy is certainly not a misogynist act, but we can debate on that later insha’Allah. and as for “beating”, as a last resort.. you define beating as something but God defines beating as something totally different. It may surprise you that a man who resorts to the beating cannot cause harm to her bones, or leave a mark on her body, or cause physical damage. To me that sounds like a tap or a nudge, and besides which man is willing to beat his wife knowing that there are so many rules that come with it, and if he transgress one of them he will be punished?

    • I’m well aware of the Islamic definition of beating. It’s still beating and still a form of control and power. It’s like a parent disciplining their child in order to instill respect and control. Surely, no loving parent would beat their child to the point of injury. But I am not a child and refuse to be treated as such by my husband under any circumstance. Even if it doesn’t “leave a mark” or “break my bones” or is only “on my body, not on my face”.

      Also, can you give me the answer, in your estimation, as to why God requires that we have 2 female witnesses? Is it because we are defiecient in intellect and religion? Just too emotional? Can’t be trusted?

      • I think I already explained the logistics of the two witness rule in Islamic law. And I think it’s perfectly just, because what happens if there is only one woman as a witness entering into a contract with a man. If that man marries that woman, the contract can be easily broken and the man would take the advantage of that broken deal. When there are two women, there is always a second woman to make sure that the contract is upheld properly.

        And as far as beating is concerned, I just discussed that with another blogger. The arabic word that is used in the verse (4:34) “dha-ra-ba” can mean different things. Most translations have “dha-ra-ba” as “to beat”; however it can also mean “to leave” or “to desert.” So depending which translation you consult, it doesn’t necessarily instruct men to ‘beat’ their wives. And when we look at the holistic evidence from all the other verses in the Qur’an, and the prophetic traditions, we can see that beating is absolutely forbidden in Islam.

        Scholars continuously study the Qur’an in it’s various meanings, and once way to look at this word is to examine how it is being used in other places in the Qur’an; and the most common usage is “to set forth” (see 13:17, 14:24, 24:25 among others). I think we have to careful how we judge certain parts of the Qur’an without having studied the language and vast translations that are out there. I’d recommend Ahmad Ali’s Al-Qur’an:
        A Contemporary Translation.

        Best,

  6. @ Nida–I really think you’re reaching here. Regarding the 2 witnesses verse, it is not at all specific, and what you’re describing is a very specific situation. Not to mention the hadith that mentions this verse: Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o ‘Id-al-Adhaor Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that themajority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He
    replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.”
    (Sahih Bukhari Book 6, Hadith 301)

    Regarding the verse involving the word dharaba, do the classical scholars interpret the meaning to be as such? I was under the impression this was a rather modern analysis of the text.

    • Quoting Steph: “Regarding the verse involving the word dharaba, do the classical scholars interpret the meaning to be as such? I was under the impression this was a rather modern analysis of the text.”

      Correct. It’s a rather new interpretation, and you’ll not find any agreed-upon translations of the Quran that define the word “Dharaba” to mean anything other than “beat” and similar terms.

      However, since “dharaba” is very clearly used to mean “leave” or “part” in other instances, referenced by Nida above, I completely reject the traditional translation of the term because it does not comply with the Quran’s message regarding women. Interestingly enough, this is one of the fewest cases in which we prefer the Quran to hadiths, as hadiths make it a point to say that the Prophet (pbuh) never beat his wives (well, there are other hadiths, such as in Muslim, in which Aisha narrates her experience of having been hit by the Prophet in the chest, and the hadith is classified as authentic, but I have not studied it in detail as of yet). So, in all other instances, we’re like, “Do this because that’s what the Prophet did. Don’t do that becuase the Prophet didn’t advise it.” But when it comes to beating wives, we compleeeetely ignore the hadith in which the Prophet says, “The best if you is he who’s best to his wives, and I’m best to mine.” … Ahh, but then again, one could ask what “best” meant. Perhaps his wives felt otherwise (I know, I know – I’m sure they didn’t). Perhaps men who beat their wives using Islam to justify it also believe that they are best to their wives, or that they treat their wives in a very good way, or the best possible way for the men.

      I discussed more of the “beating verse” (4:34) in a blog entry the link to which I’ll share for those interested: http://qrratugai.blogspot.com/2010/05/challenges-of-quranic-verse-434.html

      I’ll have to come back to the whole witness issue another time, as I have a comment to make regarding the example that Nida has presented in support of her view.

      • P.S. I also wanted to add that the fact that the Arabic word “dharaba” has been used virtually by ALL “authentic” translators and interpreters of the Quran to mean “beat” or “scourge” or other equally disturbing terms tells me that I should not accept the accepted translations as purely authentic or true after all, particularly in terms of human rights, women’s rights, and minorities’ rights. If this word could be misunderstood, if it’s indeed a misunderstanding (which is only human, since all our interpreters and scholars and translators, no matter how intelligent and pious, were humans as well as products of their respective societies, right?), then certainly many other controversial words could have been misunderstood… like “nushooz.” Compare, for example, the translational of the term ‘nushooz” in verse 4:34 to that in verse 4:128.

        So it’s a good thing not to take everything as fact; it’s a good thing to doubt what’s been said about women. To me, the accepted translation of 4:34 is nothing but a means to reinforce the subjugation of women in Muslim societies. God most likely did not intend for Her words to be interpreted the way that people did.

        Oh God, another thing just came to my mind. There’s a hadith that explains the context of verse4:34’s revelation. A man slapped his wife, who went to the Prophet (pbuh) and told him that something needs to be done about this because what her husband had done was unacceptable and unjust. The Prophet wanted to agree with her, as indicated by his response to her: “I wanted one thing, and God wanted another” — and verse 4:34 was revealed.

        Assuming the above incidence is true, the “modern” translation of “dharaba” is most likely not true. (Perhaps this is why not one translator ever dared, at least back in the classical, medieval, and even recent times, to offer a different translation of “dharaba.”) But it is fully justified if one looks at the overall message of the Quran and the way that the Quran presents women, as well as the role of Islam in abolishing certain cruel, sexist, misogynist customs of the Arab society of that time.

  7. @ Nida, while I agree with the idea that modern scholars like Tariq Swaidan, Hamza Yusuf et al, all provide a more in-depth analysis of dharaba that’s certainly missing from classical scholarship, I’m afraid I can’t buy in to your explanation for two witnesses. If you have the source, I’d be really interested to read it. I mean, not to be not-picky, but men can marry up to 4 wives. If two witnesses are required because the male witness can marry one of them — he can actually marry both, and still break the contract. By that logic we’d need 5 female witnesses for every 1 male.

    People tend to be sensitive about slavery in Islam because it was something that God did not ban outright, like the killing of newborn daughters, or eating pork. In fact the Qur’an references slaves, and female slaves of men quite often. It’s only in the hadith that we learn of the preference to slowly phase out slavery. To some, it’s an apologetic to say, “yeah well, God intended to abolish slavery even though it’s not made forbidden in Islam. God just didn’t want to disrupt the pagan society too much, so these laws were revealed slowly over two decades.” When on the other hand, injecting women’s rights and telling staunch misogynists that they could no longer kill the children they could care less about because of gender quality into the society happened in one fell swoop. I’m sure that ruffled quite a few feathers for generations. People who have slave history, or come from backgrounds where slavery is still practiced today, and women who question why men are technically allowed concubines may have difficulties grappling with these concepts when they occur in God’s own words.

  8. Fascinatin’ discussion ladies. The hadith Steph just referenced always get me twisted, and I dont think I will ever be able to understand the purpose. I often find myself reflecting on these types of issues and chalk them up to ” tests”. While I can “deal with it”, its not right for me to stop at that. What shall I teach my kids when they learn about these issues? I cannot gloss over them. Its not explainable. It just isn’t. And this troubles me.

  9. @woodturtule – I wouldn’t want to claim I have it all figured out. On the contrary, I am still learning myself. However, before I make any preemptive judgments about ‘God’s’ intentions and commands, I will exhaust every single possibility and explanation that is being offered and accept only the one which offers the most concise evidence, and agrees with the broader Islamic message of peace, love, hope and yes, equality.

    There are many explanations out there and varying opinions regarding these issues, and I am certainly no expert on them all. Ultimately, God’s Wisdom is great and just. Even if we may not understand why something is in the Qur’an, based on our current knowledge, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a greater wisdom behind it. We just need to be asking more questions to figure out the answers.

    Anyway, as per the 2 women and 1 man rule. There is also another opinion which suggests that this law applies only to one specific case – that of business transactions – in which women at that time were not as experienced in as men. In all other references to witnesses in the Qur’an, Allah doesn’t differentiate between man and woman. For example, adultery requires 4 witnesses, and it doesn’t specify whether they should be male or female.

    And as per your example reg. slavery. Taking someone as your servant isn’t the same as killing a baby. It makes sense that God would end this practice abruptly, because it was a matter of preserving innocent life. Slavery, on the other hand, is different.

    @ Stephanie – the hadith you quote is not to be read literally. We know from the prophet’s character that he would never really demean Muslim women nor their intelligence. And we all the other ahadith which tell us that “women are the twin halves of men” to support that.

    Many scholars break down the cited hadith into three possible ways of looking at it: a) look at the context – the prophet (peace be upon him) was addressing an all women’s public gathering during the ‘farewell pilgrimage’ – and was challenging the women to give up their gold and jewelry to help raise funds for the jihad b) ordering these women to ask forgiveness and stop cursing their husbands (where we also have to take into account the context, when certain verses were revealed about “cursing a believer is like killing him”) and c) the prophet may have meant it in a playful manner, as he was known to have a sense of humor.

    So before we dismiss these sayings based on our contemporary views on women and gender issues, let’s look at these sayings more analytically and try and figure out their meanings in their given historical context and have them correspond to the greater Islamic idea of justice.

    Best,

  10. Really interesting post and discussion!

    I am currently reading a Masters dissertation that draws ethical lessons from pre-Islamic documents to construct its effects on Islamic laws. Apparently, uproar against female infanticide was not an Islamic invention. It was a key moral and ethical teaching of the Haanifs and verses against female infanticide appear frequently in the poems of the Haanifs and Kahins in pre-Islamic Arabia. How many Muslim scholars point that out? Pagans were used to hearing this moral lesson from the Haanifs and the Kahins and weren’t surprised when Islam gave the same instructions. Now what is an Islamic invention is allowing a man to marry his adopted son’s former wife and we know that it came down in one step which created enough controversy for verses to be revealed specially to allow it. So my question is if something like that could have been allowed in one go, why couldn’t slavery be phased out slowly within the lifetime of the Prophet?

    I am also reading Leila Ahmed these days and from her research it is evidently clear that when Islam spread, slavery actually became uncontrollably widespread. Let’s face it, Muslims never abolished slavery. In fact, Muslim countries were the most reluctant and the last to ban it. If it was God’s plan to end slavery through Islam, it would have ended through Islam and Muslims. That didn’t happen and there are still slaves being bought and sold in Muslim countries.

    As far as two witnesses are concerned, I did some math and it appears that the hadith you quoted Stephanie, was uttered by the Prophet a few years before the revelation of the verse making it compulsory for two women to stand witness (in a financial transaction, I should add). And from some sources on pre-Islamic literature it appears that requiring more than one woman as witness was common not in Mecca but in Medina where agricultural property was not as fluid as the businesses and cattle in Mecca and hence women, although loud-mouthed if Jewish, were generally not given greater rights in property and financial matters. Thus, this law already existed in Medina, where the Prophet was addressing the women of “insufficient religion and intellect.” These women, mostly Jewish, also refrained from praying and worshiping during their period, something that was also adopted by Islam, even if not explicitly mentioned in the Quran like the witnesses. My point is, requiring two female witnesses was a continuation of a practice and the passing mention of it neither raised any eyebrows nor did it cause any jubilation from women. It appears they remained unaffected by it as if already knowing their place. An innovation would have been to require one woman witness to equal one man. But that didn’t happen.

    What strikes me as unusual is that what women should do and shouldn’t do, can do and can’t do is only specifically mentioned in the Quran if it affects men or is related to men. For example, the only time menstruation is mentioned in the Quran is when it affects the sexual life of the man – he must refrain from having sex with a woman on period.

    I agree with those who say that it is important to understand the language of the Quran before we make conclusions. Apart from the fact that there are at least half a dozen ahadith to support that men are allowed to beat their wives, the word Da/Ra/Ba is used eight times in the Quran in the imperative form and in all eight times it means ‘to beat/strike’ (2:60, 2:73, 4:34, 7:160, 8:12, 8:12, 20:77, 26:63). But let’s assume that Asma Barlas and Hamza Yusuf and others like them are correct; for 1420 years we didn’t know the *correct* meaning of the word أضربوهن – even then the imperative verb means an order … an order to discipline. Punishment and disciplining never takes place between equals; there is always inequality between the one who punishes and the one who is punished. How does that make me feel as a wife? Pretty beat, I’d say 😀 LOL.

  11. Sarah

    @Achelious
    I can’t speak on behalf of all women, but I can speak on behalf of myself, When I am having my period, I have very sore back, stomach and sometimes I have to take pain killers because of this. I know alot of women go through this as well, and the reason why Allah swt commanded men not to have sex whilst the wife has her period is not for the man’s priority but actually FOR WOMEN. I think it is God looking after the well-being of women and also, it has always been known that it is not hygenic to have sex when there is blood .. you get the picture.

    @Stephanie
    Yes I can answer your Question regarding why 1 male witness is equal to two female witnesses. “…And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her…” but wait, this does not mean that women are not able to understand things or remember but that she is weaker than man in this aspect. This is not degrading because Allah swt has created men with stronger cells and stronger physical features. A woman is a softer versian of a man if you really think about it.
    Allah created men to excel over women so they can take care of them, not to be superior over one another.

    “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allaah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allaah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity and their husband’s property)”[al-Nisaa’ 4:34]

    I hope this answers your question. I just want to remind you that its okay to question, just don’t let the questioning lead to critisism and cause a barrier between you and Allah swt.

  12. unsettledsoul

    Sarah

    “this does not mean that women are not able to understand things or remember but that she is weaker than man in this aspect. ”

    Can you explain this further? She is weaker in what aspect? Understanding and memory?

  13. @ Achelois–Thank you so much for the insightful comment. I’d like to pick your brain for awhile. I’d like to learn more about your thesis. It seems that Islamic thinkers have created this dicotomy between pre-Islam (ignorant) and post-Islam (enlightened), when really much of the Quran is specific to the people and society of the times. It seems Islamic laws and mores are inherently intertwined with earlier sources. Honestly, I hadn’t put much though into how much of Islamic law was simply a continuation of current thought.

    @ Sarah–Regarding Achelois’ comment, I don’t believe that she was questioning the wisdom of refraining from intercourse during menstration, rather giving an observation that women’s issues are generally addressed if and when they are relevant to men somehow. So while Allah could have addressed women directly in the Quran with regards to menstration, instead, He addresses the men even though menstration is the function of a woman’s body. Another way to put it, instead of giving women the command to refrain from intercourse during her menses, it was given to men. Why? It’s really a womans issue isn’t it? But again, it’s as if the text gives implicit command to men in this particular issue.

    • Thanks Stephanie for explaining to Sarah what I meant. Yes, that is exactly what I was pointing out.

      Stephanie, when I look at Quranic edicts, there are hardly any laws that were not observed by some Arabian tribes. After Islam spread and Muslims came into contact with the various other cultures like Byzantine, Persian etc. their cultural practices slowly merged with Islamic practices, like Leila Ahmed, Hamza Yusuf and Kecia Ali point out but even when they were confined to Arabia, the Muslim practices were not new. The few new rules that were established were usually the spontaneous result of breaking of an already established pagan rule. For instance, pagans didn’t fight during their holy months and didn’t shed any blood during raids which were more like “bloodless looting” but in the 5th or 7th Muslim raid, a Muslim killed a pagan he was looting. That caused a lot of controversy and even many Jews who were supporting the mujahereen were shocked. In response, although the Quran accepted the pagan holy month as ‘holy’ (2:217), Muslims were absolved of any wrongdoing. This was a new rule – oppression was now considered worse than slaughter and so if anyone oppressed others in the holy months, they could potentially be slaughtered.

      Strict monotheism was probably the most important Muslim law, but even with that monotheism wasn’t unheard of in Arabia – the Haanifs were monotheists and so were the Arians and the Jews.

  14. Why is it odd Achelois – God was addressing men in this context. Men asked about menstruation whereupon the answer was given:

    “And they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves. Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers” (2:222-223)

    The context here wasn’t actually menstruation but sexual intercourse. So God is not even addressing women in this verse, but men.

    • “The context here wasn’t actually menstruation but sexual intercourse. So God is not even addressing women in this verse, but men.”

      Yes, that is exactly my point. Thanks for making that clear.

      Women asked questions as well. We are still asking questions. How many verses answer the queries of women? Just a thought. According to classical scholars and seerah writers 4:34 was revealed in response to a woman’s complaints, but even that verse addresses men!

      • Ok, I still don’t get it. God was addressing an issue that applies to both sexes, sexual intercourse, and he was addressing men to stay away from their wives during their menses. How does that prove your point, that God is addressing a woman’s issue in relation to man, when intercourse isn’t a woman’s only issue?

        As per the tafsir of verse 4:34; according to most of the classics, this verse was revealed in relation to a captured slave girl who was already married. The context is one which involved a woman, but the verse itself was addressing men because God was telling them not to have intercourse with slaves (or any other women) who were already married. So perhaps that’s were the confusion lies.

        • sara

          If you had been taken captive by the enemy tribe/people, after they won a battle over the men of your tribe/people, would you then happily strip naked and spread your legs for whatever man now own you as ‘what hos right hand possesses’ putting aside whatever differences, such as the killing of the men in your household, integrity, pride, decency, any marital bond with your now killed husband, and welcome the man who now holds you as a slave?

          If your answer is no, which I suspect it would be, then can you not relate to the rape of slaves as intercourse. Afterall we dont call rape as being sex, as it is not.

          In modern times, this act of slaves and ‘sex’ spild fall under war crimes and breach human rights conventions. Faith is hold. Blind faith is dangerous.

      • Nida, verse 4:34 is the ‘wife beating verse’ addressed to men but revealed when a woman complained that her husband had beaten her.

        “How does that prove your point, that God is addressing a woman’s issue in relation to man, when intercourse isn’t a woman’s only issue?”

        Well, my point is not that “God is addressing a woman’s issue in relation to man, when intercourse isn’t a woman’s only issue.” My point is that a woman’s issue is only mentioned in the Quran (from period to divorce to iddah) when it is related to or affects men, otherwise it is ignored like prohibition on praying during period. This prohibition affects the religiosity of every Muslim woman; has been affecting the religiosity of every Muslim woman for 1400 years and currently affects at least 500 million Muslim women every month but Quran is completely silent on it. On the other hand, sex during period is explicitly prohibited in the Quran exactly because”intercourse isn’t a woman’s only issue.” I would be surprised if examples like this one don’t strike anyone else as unusual.

      • woops, my bad, for some reason I was looking at 4:24. Sorry about that.

        Anyway, I think with questions like these we have to consult the ahadith, because God taught Muhammad the Hikmah, and the prophet taught it to humankind (recorded in his sayings and teachings). I think the Qur’an addresses both women and men together, and much of it can be applied to both sexes through analogy. But if women wanted to know more about menstruation and the like they asked the prophet (peace be upon him) and he explained it to them. This is why much of the fiqh relating to women’s only issues, such as menstruation, is contained in the ahadith. It would have been odd only if it wasn’t adressed at all in Islam, but it was.

        I don’t think my inability to perform the ritualistic prayer and recitation during my period affects my ‘religiosity’ in any way. I can still maintain my spiritual connection with God by doing supplication and performing good deeds. Just because we shouldn’t pray during that time, doesn’t mean we are disconnected from God all together.

      • @Nida, I’m not in the habit of promoting my own work on others’ blogs, but I just wrote a comprehensive look at menstruation and prayer, and within the ahadeeth, the Prophet explains menstruation as a thing ordained by Allah, that the custom of the women at the time was not to pray during “regular” menstruation (there is plenty of instruction and permissible worship for menstruating women who bleed longer than normal), Hajj for menstruating women and that it doesn’t “pollute” the body of a woman (ie: “your menses is not in your hand”), but that the state of menses has the capacity to pollute (requesting menstruating women not to linger in the Musallah — which is also up to interpretation since there are conflicting ahadith in this regard). He never says *why* menstruation is a ritual impurity.

        It’s actually within the legal compendiums that we find the male legal scholars likened menstrual blood to the dead blood of animals. Since the blood of animals is forbidden to us to eat according to 6:145, therefore, menstrual blood is an impurity necessitating women to refrain from a multitude of acts of worship. There is a huge disconnect here. Permissible food VS a natural cleansing of the female body? There is nothing in the Qur’an regarding prayer and menstruation and there is nothing in the ahadeeth explaining *why.* Women are certainly never told that the scholars view menstrual blood as dead animal blood — but instead rely on a verse intended to outline guidelines for sexual intercourse. Anyone interested can see the entire discussion here.

      • Woodturtle, I think the question has been answered, you just don’t like it or agree with it. Menstrual blood is an impurity, and invalidates the ablution. Just like many other bodily fluids that exit out of our sexual organs (both male and female) are conssidered ‘impure’ and invalidate our wudu. And if you think about it metaphorically not literaly, menstural blood is ‘dead’ – that is why our body ejects it every month.

      • Nida, actually, it’s the literature promoting women as being impure, and using a verse on sexual relations to support it that I have a problem with. I’m a very upfront person, and would more easily accept a scholar saying, “women are told not to pray because that is simply the sunnah” than to tell me that my relationship with my own body is defined in according to male sexuality, and then do a song and dance with the scared texts to attempt to prove that I am inherently impure.

        In terms of menstruation, there are many (many, many) women who view menstruation more positively as a cleansing time, a natural step in the cycle to one day insha’Allah accept potential life, a chrysalis of renewal, and that the tissue shed is actually full of potential life and nutrients, originating from clean blood — not death. To encourage women to view themselves as sick, suffering, polluted or dirty is quite cruel, when blood in general is not an impurity and when the other major impurities are not defined as pollution.

        We may or may not agree upon that point, and that’s okay — I’m glad you’re commenting and I’m enjoying reading your thoughts 🙂

  15. Sarah

    @ unsettled soul
    Women are created weaker in every aspect. That means body-wise. Lets see what science has to say: Even recent studies have researched despite the claim that both women and men’s intellegence is equal, One such study showed that men have larger brains than women, a 100 gram difference after correcting for body size. This results in more brain tissue. There are differences between both sexes in that the left hemisphere dominates in the female brain and the right hemisphere in the male brain. The left hemisphere (female) is better at performing tasks such as languages, lateral thinking, movement, linguistics, inter-personal skills, communication, relationships etc; whereas the right hemisphere (male) is better at analysis, logical thought, deduction, sensory interpretation, observation and critical thinking.

    This is what science say, I trust that there is wisdom behind the “witness issue” that even science is proving.

    • sara

      How can you Even prompte that? So in other words we should have females in authoritive, governing, educational, decisive positions because according to you they are created weaker in every sense (which is not supported by science, but solely your subjective view) and so how can society risk leaving any decision or control to them when it c+an not trust her senses, memory, stability, coherence and rationale(or lack hereof)? I am appalled at your views which are condescending to half the world. Instead of viewing women as inferior to men, about viewing them as complementary. Otherwise did Adam really need Eve? It is a shame you hold such views being female.

    • sara

      How can you even support that? So in other words we should not have females in authoritive, governing, educational, decisive positions because according to you they are created weaker in every sense (which is not supported by science, but solely your subjective view) and so how can society risk leaving any decision or control to them when it c+an not trust her senses, memory, stability, coherence and rationale(or lack hereof)? I am appalled at your views which are condescending to half the world. Instead of viewing women as inferior to men, about viewing them as complementary. Otherwise did Adam really need Eve? It is a shame you hold such views being female.

  16. Science hasn’t proven anything regarding the “witness” issue. I really do hate to mix science and religion, but since we must, research on memory shows that women excel over men in this arena. This study can be found elsewhere but here’s the link I got this quote from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220104244.htm
    “Specific results indicated that women excelled in verbal episodic memory tasks, such as remembering words, objects, pictures or everyday events, and men outperformed women in remembering symbolic, non-linguistic information, known as visuospatial processing. For example, the results indicate a man would be more likely to remember his way out of the woods.
    However, there are also sex differences favoring women on tasks such as remembering the location of car keys, which requires both verbal and visuospatial processing.”
    So if I need help finding my way out of the woods, I might consult a man, or maybe a compass. Otherwise, I’m perfectly adept at remebering and understanding terms to a contract. Not to mention the fact that I’m literate and any important contract these days would be written down.
    I think Achelois’ demonstrated that this was an issue particular to the culture at the time. Either way, I don’t see how it applies to me.

  17. Sarah

    You can take it as you wish sister, but all I know is that the Hadith was never intended to insult women in anyway. I’m sensing alot of critisism towards Islam lately and I’m beginning to wonder, do you still want to be a Muslimah? Maybe none of my business, but I like your blog, and reading your posts, I have to say – I’m kind of confused as to what your trying to get…

  18. Achelois wrote:

    “Punishment and disciplining never takes place between equals; there is always inequality between the one who punishes and the one who is punished. How does that make me feel as a wife? Pretty beat, I’d say 😀 LOL.”

    I’ve heard men say “well, it only meant a beating with a stick the size of a toothpick” as a way of excusing this verse and making it more likable (as if!). But that’s not the point at all. I don’t care if God meant a beating with a toothpick or a baseball bat, the point is that women are NOT inferior to men nor should they be punished by men as if they are children. I can understand parents disciplining children. Children need instruction and guidance. But I refuse this cultural thought that treats women as if they require their men to keep them in place – why? – because women are too stupid to know better? From observing people, I tend to believe MEN are more prone to “disobedience” than women. Yet God didn’t realize this little quirk of men and instead gave MEN more power even to hit their women if they were not obeying?? I will never accept this.

    • There was a time when I accepted that men are the leaders of women and had certain rights over her. it’s probably obvious from my comments that I no longer feel this way. Luckily, for me and my family, I have a kind, uncontrolling husband you has never put this verse to the test. Either way, I agree with your comment. That’s why I’m to the point that I just don’t accept these verses are directly from God.

  19. Nida you said, “Just because we shouldn’t pray during that time, doesn’t mean we are disconnected from God all together.”

    I’m so glad to read that. This is how it should be and I’m happy there are women who don’t think they are have a “deficiency in their religion” because they *can’t* pray when they menstruate. But sadly, like Woodturtle excellently put it in her post on menstruation and prayer, “the overwhelming, sometimes innocuous message being sent to women is that they are naturally dirty and spiritually defiled… That it makes women weak, lacking, imperfect and second class … That it’s a reason why more women are in hell than men. That if you question the ruling not to pray, or feel it is unfair, you aren’t faithful enough — or worse, are deluded by Western notions of equality.”

    • But I don’t see it as something ‘unfair.’ Menstruation is a unique part of being a woman, and I am glad that is acknowledged in Islam. If both men and women had their ‘periods’ (hypothetically speaking) and then God only addressed the male period and not the female, or described the female menses to be impure and the male’s to be pure, then I’d be the first to point out how unfair that would be. But I think we as women have to accept our uniqueness, and distinctiveness and stop comparing every ruling to man.

      The nature of worship in Islam is very broad. The greatest act of worship is not ‘prayer’ but ‘performing good deeds.’ If we think about it, the time men spent praying while we are on our periods, we have more chances to do good in this world. And our reward is equal. What matters in the end for all of us, is how much ‘good’ we did, and whether that good act was performed through ritual prayer (which is obligatory anyway), or an act of kindness which is voluntary and whose reward can be multiplied – it doesn’t matter. I think we sometime spend so much time on the trivial issues, that we start missing the bigger picture. And that is what I try to remind myself of all the time. 🙂

  20. Sarah said: “because Allah swt has created men with stronger cells and stronger physical features”

    Stronger bain cells or muscle cells? Being pregnant and giving birth require intense physical strength. Raising children requires endless brain power. I just dont find this statement to be valid. It is obvious that men and women are created differently; but it doesnt mean we are deficient. Regarding the statements you posed regarding reasearch and the size of a man’s brain being larger than a female’s brain, seems incomplete. Empirical evidence doesnt tell us enough, and it is un-scientific to reach a conclusion or cause and effect based on that alone.

    Steph you brought up a very interesting point- were contracts written or verbal during the Islamic period?

    My personal bottom line: Women and men are different, and we are all unique. Women are not weaker nor inferior. Not all men are big hairy brawny creatures, Id say for sure I know quite a few ladies that could physically overpower a large man and there are plenty of men who make Martha Stewart look like child’s play. In this day and age, humanity is way to gender diverse to hold men or women to cookie cutter standards.

    Achelois: thank you for sharing your thoughts, I learned stuff 🙂 I like your perspective about women literally being deficient in their knowledge of religion and intellect (pertaining to business) at the time the verses were revealed, but I still dont get how that would qualify a woman for hell-fire. I mean, if you dont know you are wrong and are not shown the ‘right way’, how could you be held accountable? To me, the word deficient implies a lack of education…..

    Awesome discussion, i am enjoying this!!!

    Just my humble opinion 🙂

    AOA.

    • Midnightmama, (I love that name, btw :D), I don’t think that women even in the 7th Century were “deficient in their knowledge of religion and intellect (pertaining to business) at the time the verses were revealed”, if that was the case Khadeejah wouldn’t have been the successful owner of her business for which she was solely responsible signing deals and contracts and even recruiting the Prophet to work *for* her. Hind wouldn’t have been in the position she was in with a “deficient intellect”, and Asma Bint Marwan wouldn’t have been a challenge enough to be silenced like she was silenced. Hubba and Sulafa were two women who were the keepers of the keys to the Kaaba before it was taken over by Muslims after which the keys were never given to a woman. There were powerful, smart and intelligent women in Arabia.

      My premise is that in Medina two women witnesses were required (not because Medinian women were stupid, but for political reasons to make it more difficult for women to enter contractual agreements) and Islam merely carried on the practice whereas it could have adopted the Meccan policies where women enjoyed a better status. The verse that requires two women witnesses has a conditional clause “But if two men are not available…”, so asking two women to bear witness is the second and less preferred choice. If two men are available, women wouldn’t even be approached to bear witness.

      I don’t believe that at least the ahadith are metaphorical. Where is the metaphor in “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)”? It is pretty straight-forward and if it was a joke, the length of explanation of why majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire are women made it a very painful joke. I really do think early Muslims thought women were less intelligent than men and deficient in their religion because they couldn’t pray as much as men; and they thought with a deficient religiosity (hence lesser fear of the wrath of Allah) and weaker intellect women were prone to being mean and saying the wrong things which would send them straight to Hell.

  21. Sarah

    I have collected for information for you with regards to the “witness issue”. There are many reasons, the majority of women take emotion first and logic after. This is a fact. Also, our moods are altered by our hormones during our period ( i say things I shouldnt when I menstruating). 2 women witnesses will be more accurate as some women get scared under stress so if she conceals anything out of fear, the second woman can re-assure her and remind her, (kind of like support, like when women go through intimidating situations, we want our best friend with us or another woman.).

    • @ Sarah– Did you read Achelois’ assessment of the regulation? I personally find it more feasible than looking for excuses about how we’re weaker, scared, emotional, on our periods or whatever. I realize that as a practicing Muslim and one who takes the Quran as the literal word of God you must believe and try to practice everything you’re told in the Quran. However, this conversation has given me more of an appreciation that Islam really does view woman as lesser. The very fact that we’re having a debate about whether or not a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s say quite alot. Certainly, in the area of memory and recounting the events of a contract two witnesses are needed because of our inferior memory (or so you say). And as the rationale goes it is due to our very makeup–our emotionality, menstration, hormones, illogical thought processes etc. So in essence, the conclusion that is easy to draw is that because of the way our bodies and brains are built, we are inferior in memory and recounting the events of some contract or occurence. I realize many would recoil at the use of the word inferior, but in this case it really is applicable.

      As always I do appreciate your input, and although we’ll probably never agree on anything 🙂 you are always welcome to give your thoughts here on my blog. Anytime.

      • unsettledsoul

        I would love to ask the former CEO of Ebay (a woman) how she feels about Sarah’s analysis… Hahaha!

      • unsettledsoul

        So, for example, the witness of an alcoholic drug addict (man) living on the street is more valid than that of a sober business woman? I’m just saying, does that really make sense to you Sarah? Because if what you are saying is true, that means it applies across the board, no?

        That means, in all cases and instances, a man is a better witness than a woman, according to YOUR view of what the Quran is saying. Even the worst man is a better witness than the best woman.

        Correct me if I am wrong.

      • Sarah

        ok so does this mean you belive the Qur’an is not flawless? Because if this is what you belive, then somewhere along the lines you are saying that this Qur’an is not from God, because we belive God is flawless and any Book sent from God, would have to be the same. I can understand these type of veiws to come from someone who does not belive in the Qur’an all together.

    • @ unsettled soul– someone more knowledgable in shariah would have to answer the question if an alcholoic drug addicts testimony would be legit. Somehow i doubt it but in my mind that’s really not the point.
      Sarah’s just offering the usual apologia for the verse. The fact is the verse still exists. The Quran still says one must bring two female witnessess. It’s black and white. As to why, does it really matter? i will always reject the notion wholeheartedly. Which, if you believe the Quran is Divine (which is the foundation of Islam), then to reject it is essentially rejecting one of God’s commandments. See how problematic this is? This is just one of the verses that has left me questioning the divinity of the Quran. Could theses things truly be the final message from God? Somehow, I doubt it.

      • unsettledsoul

        “ok so does this mean you belive the Qur’an is not flawless?”

        It makes me sad knowing that people will forgo their own thinking if it means they may possibly go against something in the Quran or whatever else we are told to accept fully and with no doubts.

        Good point Stephanie. The fact is the verse still exists. I get caught up in trying to defend certain things in Islam because it is still hard for me to accept the truth: “It is in there.” Point blank. Period. It is in there, however we may try to make excuses for it, which is what it always sounds like to me, the fact is that it is there.

        Reminds me of a political show I watched where the host was saying the founding fathers found excuses for slavery from the bible. Some people boo’d him and he simply stated “It is in there folks, I am not making this up.”

    • sara

      How can you even support that, seriously? So in other words we should not have females in authoritive, governing, educational, decisive positions because according to you they are created weaker in every sense (which is not supported by science, but solely your subjective view) and so how can society risk leaving any decision or control to them when it c+an not trust her senses, memory, stability, coherence and rationale (or lack hereof)? I am appalled at your views which are condescending to half the world. Instead of viewing women as inferior to men, about viewing them as complementary. Otherwise did Adam really need Eve? It is a shame you hold such views being female.

    • sara

      When we look at the unbridled violence fuelled by passion, anger, rage, jealousy – men seem to be heavily represented there. When the cartoon crises broke, people started violent protests resulting in demand for bloodshed if those guilty, beeadings and burning down embassies. Many divorces are give in state of anger 3 times in Muslim.households. No excuse or apology can undo the this. Fights break out on the streets around the world over Willy macho things. All emotional and all by men. So your entire mysognistic hypothesis goes out the window as far as rationale as opposed to emotion is concerned

      As for 2 witnesses, that only works if the other woman isn’t also confused, intimidated, shy or holds alterior motives. So we need need an infinete number of women ensuring ones testimony. How reassuring. When rape victims go on trial, they are alone. No witnesses. And if your “logic” was to be implemented, they could not win. Let alone testify. Same for battered women. Or abused women and girls. This poses a serious setback of civil society and women’s rights.

  22. I once wrote a post on menstruation in which I addressed this issue that men and even women wrongly think that periods make women hormonal and of foggy mind. In it I wrote:

    “Studies have now been conducted on the influence of religion on women’s menstrual well-being that show that “women who were most likely to suffer from menstrual pain and problems were the ones whose religion told them they were unclean or that they had to be submissive to men”” (Source to this quote is given in my post: http://acheloisunplugged.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/menstruation-as-power-a-history/).

    No women are not stupid because we bleed. Married men statistically die earlier than their wives because they “can’t handle the stress of raising a family” and in dangerous situations where hostages are taken men and women can equally get scared and lie or forget. Strange that my husband keeps complaining that I “never forget”!

    Women are not the same everywhere; some will be more emotional and others more logical. But the same is also the case for men. Some men are also foggy-brained and illogical – and they don’t even bleed!

  23. Achelois: thank you for correcting myoung apologies, I hope you are not offended. I do agree- and have myself cited khadijah as an example of a strong & sharp woman when having thus discussion IRL. I did not know about the others. Thank you for pointing them out!!!

  24. @ Sarah–your assessment of my views of the Quran are correct. No, I don’t believe it is flawless or the absolute word of God. And I think I’ve given clear reasons why. I’m not trying to sway you from your own beliefs, but I would ask you (and anybody else) why do you think the Quran is flawless?

    • Sarah

      You are aware, that part of being a Muslim is beliveing that the Qur’an is the word of God, I know the Qur’an is flawless because when I read some verses I realise there is no possible way that these words can come from any man.. I’m left with no other explanitation other than it is God who has this much wisdom. I do say some verses because I have not read all of the Qur’an. As a Muslim who doesn’t belive the Qur’an is the word of Allah, what position do you think that leaves you in?

      • well, since I’m told that to be a Muslim once has to believe that the Quran is the flawless and literal word of God, spoken directly through the Angel Jibril to Mohammad, and I don’t believe that, then logically that puts me outside of the fold of Islam. I believe in the shahaddah but everything after that is open to question in my mind. Certainly, at this point I’m not practicing Islam, although I definitely view God and spirituality through an Islamic lens to some extent. I believe the reason for this is because Islam is the religion I’m most familar with (way more than Christianity). I believe a person can draw from many faith traditions in their quest to seek God. I guess, if you had to put a label on my belief system, I’d be considered a Unitarian Universalist, although I don’t belong to any group or church and don’t plan on it at this point.

      • At base, all that is required to be a Muslim is to believe in the shahada. The six articles of faith are only matters of one’s faith, which ebbs and flows according to our level of imaan and societal context. Membership in a community, that requires its members to believe in certain things, like the teachings of a specific scholar or pir, in a specific Islamic calendar, in a specific uniform of dress (ie: a coloured turban, Bohra dress, Salafi dress, etc), in particular prayers different from the “standard 5”, in the sunnah or not, in specific sunnat from other people, in the intercession of members of the Prophet’s family, etc, even the 6 articles of faith which for some is only 4 or 5 — all have a hand in determining one’s belonging to a specific community. But all that is required for membership in Islam is the shahada.

        Of course, Stephanie, if you want to see yourself as a Unitarian Universalist, it’s up to you 🙂 I’d still say you’re Muslim. You could be Muslim Unitarian Sushi Reformist Universalist and probably have more in common with the early scholars than we do today. It was common especially among the jurists to have a wide variety of affiliation.

  25. unsettledsoul

    haha! *sushi*

    • *cracking up*
      @ woodturtle– do you hear that? It’s the screeching of the rusty gears in my mind gaining momentum. I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. I think being Muslim is more than just shahaddah, which got me thinking about the nature of the shahaddah and prophethood. Does God really communicate to humankind through men? Or do some men simply have a knack at catching glimpses of the divine? That also brings up the thought that Islam isnt purely, or even primarily about the Divine, but rather a blueprint for a very complex social and political system. So the Quran isn’t about understanding God so much as it is about maintaining a society.
      Well, anyway some food for thought and future posts, but for now I’m looking around at my very cluttered house and children who need to be fed and a VERY large pathophysiology book that needs to be studied and life is calling.

  26. Sarah

    hmmm If I find your veiws very Contradictive. First you say, that you belive in Shahada which is There is nO god but Allah and Mohamed is his messenger. Then you say you don’t belive that Jibreel communicated with Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him. If you belive that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger (you said you belive in shahada) then you also have to belive that he speaks the truth and doesn’t lie, otherwsie how can you take him as God’s messenger? Unitarian Univeraslist for me, is another way of saying I belive in God, but I don’t belive in Religion which does take you out of the fold of Islam unfortunatley. Without a doubt, anyone who truly belives there is only one God, is a person who God himself will not let go.. but you have to be willing to sincerely want to devote to him.

    • I didn’t say that I don’t believe that Jibreel communicated with the Prophet, but I did question if that is true. There are similar stories in the Old Testament and I’m not sure if I believe they are myth or if there was some intercessor between God and the men we now call prophets. Do you believe that the prophets were all infallable, including muhammad? They were after all only men. Because I think they were flawed. Whether or not Muhammad took some liberties in relaying the message to suit his cause is not out of the question. Or perhaps what was revealed was expounded upon later. Who knows.

      I personally don’t have a problem with my views seeming contradictive. That’s the learning process. I’ve never claimed to have it all figured out. Quite the opposite actually. However, you might be right. I may not believe in the shahadda. It all depends in my conclusion of the nature of prophetship (is that a word?). These are the questions I was referring to in the previous comments. You are also correct that I believe in God and not religon. Religions are all touched by man and therefore inherently flawed–including Islam. I also realize my views are most likely quite blasphemous in your worldview and I am sorry for that. But these are my thoughts and it is my blog after all.

  27. h

    I always wonder if the simplest ideas or explanations are the best ones.

    Im not sure who writes this blog. what their background is, whether people commenting are reverts or whatever. Ill assume most are muslims, by however they wish to define themselves.

    Ive read and listened to many discussions and debates and articles about such issues, which people struggle with. Even though I was born into islam, there are many inconsistencies which I hear and see, and I couldnt really put a finger on to the ideas ,till i got older, because you cant question certain things right?

    For those who are muslim, or reverts, I dont know how or why you are muslim.

    Ive listened to scholars talk about such topics. What is clearly evident is that due to their belief, and due to a barrage of criticism by non muslims, theyve had to come up with some innovative answers.

    So lets break it down, forgetting this particular topic. Lets say their was an issue, dealt with in quran, further explained a little further by a jurist, tweaked a bit for modern times. So the first question is, what if the last tweak for modern times was wrong?

    Next lets assume the jurist got it wrong. So basically we need to get someone elses opinion or a new opinion to reinterpret the sources. But lets take it further and say that the hadith was claimed to be accurate, but its actually not. so we only have quran. and since the context of it is given by history, which is from peoples accounts, what do we know if the context? and finally how can we actually prove that this verse or whatever is actually THE authentic words from a creator?

    In short nothing can be really proven to be valid. While this idea is upsetting to most, muslims will cringe at the idea that their could be imperfections in their religion. After all how could a perfect god allow that?

    The reason why I mentioned reverts and this applies to born muslims as well is that lets say a person becomes muslim just on the following things. He broke fast with his friends, he learnt about zakaat, and he studies economics, and he feels interest keeps people as slaves to banks. So these few facts and once learning they are all mentioned in the quran, he feels , well this has to be from god, since these things are so beautiful.

    The majority of religious people go this sought of thing. They engage from young to adulthood in practices, where is logical and easy to see beauty. What they forget is that these things are universal almost to all faiths. Treating elders with respect, honesty, justice, forgiveness. So in a sense its easy to do and understand these things. They are in a sense common and intuitive.

    So if we then accept that this book must be from god, then something which we feel is wrong, there is two conclusions. Either there is an explanation and you need to find someone who knows, or its beyond mans comprehension. What a load of crap.

    But there is a another explanation. One that is a bit more startling. If people today, and its happening more and more are realising that sharia law, was in a sense affected by political, cultural and social issues, is it possible that much of the interpretation of law is wrong? Taken a step further, does the history of the early islamic period not tell us that hadith was being forged, and easily used to further politicians agendas?

    Taken to the ultimate point. its one thing to corrupt the side source. being the hadith.What if , verses were added to , and taken away from the quran? Not only is this possible, it explains alot of problematic verses. More modern ideas might be that those ideas were for those times, and that it spoke to a specific people. But lots of scholars of today are of the feeling that earlier understandings were better than ours, and so changing them amounts to heresy. god forbid.

    I know this idea is troublesome to people. Because for reverts they thought well at least i can hold on to this fact. that this book is perfect. But is it really? Can anyone really proove this? Its impossible.

    I saw some people commenting about jibreel communicating to mohammed, and how you have to belive this… etc etc.

    I really struggle to see how in light of much observation into natural sciences muslims are still stuck in their own little world. The idea of evolution is one which should easily cause people to think about so much as to how they understand the quran.

    When I was growing up, I asked my dad, when im fasting and i want to break my fast, theres no devil telling me to do something. its me. my own thoughts. to which the reply could be well hes locked up now its ramadaan. but the next logical conclusion is, then after ramadaan when hes free, how do i know when its him or when its me?

    Studies by ancient and modern scholars of natural and human sciences have advanced much in ideas of religion, psychology, anthropology,etc. Old scholars had lots to tell us about the real meaning and emmanation of these holy books, but unfortunately they were far beyond their time.

    I dont think when god says he creates things, like the universe , planets, stars, moon, oceans, mountains, it happens without a process. similary religion then must come through this process. so jibreel must be within the physicla explanation of things.

    Jibreel could have spoken to the prophet. Does that mean it was a literal conversation? That he was literal? That any of this was?

    Id like to leave with a quote.

    The Orthodox Muslims Support the Theory of Special Creation. As pointed out earlier, the theory of special creation was in vogue since the time of the Old Testament. The ancients having an extremely rudimentary knowledge of the phenomena of nature were not able to realise distinctly the meaning of the revealed verses. The commentators of the Holy Quran also interpreted the Quranic verses on similar lines, and being influenced as already stated, by the Jewish literature, they have produced fantastic stories ofAdam and Eve and the propagation of human species as such from the very beginning. It is a contradiction of the Quranic verses.

    In short, what my main point im trying to make in all of this, is that we need to really open our minds to new ways of looking at things. These verses perhaps need a more metaphorical understanding. Perhaps much of what I thought was fixed belief is questionable.

    I cannot believe that such an ernest quest for truth, would be met by punishment by a real god. That god would then be harsh and merciless, and hes not the god i believe in.

  28. @ h– I am the writer of the blog and if you read my comments, it seems as if we are in agreement with one another.

    “In short, what my main point im trying to make in all of this, is that we need to really open our minds to new ways of looking at things. These verses perhaps need a more metaphorical understanding. Perhaps much of what I thought was fixed belief is questionable.”

    I think most of the commentators here would be in complete agreement with this statement. I don’t truly consider myself Muslim anymore, but this is a fairly new conclusion I’ve reached. Why do I continue to write about Islam? Well I don’t precisely know except that I continue to see God through the lens of Islam since that is primarily what I know. Islam has been a powerful force in my life for quite awhile, and it will take time to recover from it. In a sense, this blog right now is a form of therapy for me.

    If you come back in a year, I think, I hope, the posts I write would look very different.

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