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Women and
gender justice

Women and gender justice / Presentation

Islamic renewal

Photo by Imran Ali Collection

Islamic renewal

Equal before God

A large congregation of Muslim women seeking blessings during the display of the Holy relic of the Prophet Muhammad after Jumma prayers on the Friday following Eid al-Fitr festival. Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir.

The idea that patriarchy has a grip on human development is not unique to Islam. And certainly the way in which this grip has been abused – that is, the way in which it has been utilized in order to justify abuse – I think the idea of a link between Islam and patriarchy is not inherent in Islam itself, but inherent in the context of Islamic origin. So it is very easy to go back in Islamic history or tradition, or even in [Islamic] intellectual development, and find justification for maintaining patriarchy and giving it an Islamic slant.

Dr. Amina Wadud

Amina Wadud is a professor of Islamic studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University. On March 18th 2005, she became the first Muslim woman to lead a Muslim Friday prayer in the United States. This was a controversial action.

Rethinking sacred texts

By Asghar Ali Engineer. Text extracts from Women in the light of Hadith (2009)

What the prophet Muhammad said verbatim on any subject was collected in Hadiths. The term hadith means "report", "account" or "narrative" in Arabic. While the Quran is central to Islam Hadiths play a secondary role in Islamic jurispriudence. Hadiths were collected many generations after the death of the Prophet and were not compiled by a central authority. Hadiths are classified by Muslim clerics as ‘authentic’, ‘good’, and ‘weak’. However there is no general agreement on the classification and distinctive schools of Islam like the Sunni, Shia, Ibadi and Ahmadiyya refer to different collections of Hadiths. Some practices like dislike of paintings and sculpture and stoning of adulterers find mention in the hadith but not in the Quran. (Editor's note)

“Now, the core value of Islam is gender equality and human dignity (2:228, 17:70). Thus, if other factors do not seriously impinge on the situation gender equality and woman's dignity will prevail and laws made will have to reflect these two core values of Islam. Now when jurists of classical Islamic period 1st to 3rd centuries of Islam were compiling Shari'ah laws there were certain contingent factors they had to take into account that resulted in gender inequality. But since these Shari'ah laws were based on these contingent factors and not on core values, they cannot have status of permanence. If those contingent factors are no more valid, the laws may have to be changed in keeping with the core values of Islam.”

A hadith is a report purporting to quote what the prophet Muhammad said verbatim on any issue. (The plural is ahadith).

“Ahadith were compiled more than 150 years after the death of the Holy Prophet. Prophet himself never encouraged collecting of ahadith. He was aware of controversies it would give rise to. Similarly Hazrat Abu Bakr and Umar also discouraged collection of ahadith.”

“Muslim women are often deprived of their rights in the name of hadith. When it is pointed out that it is not in keeping with the spirit of the Qur'an they point out some hadith and say hadith is authentic and hadith will prevail even if it is not strictly in keeping with the Qur'anic pronouncement.”

“But such people are equally selective in matters of hadith. They quote hadith, which serves their purpose and helps in maintaining man's authority over woman. Here we would like to throw light on those ahadith which are closer to the spirit of the Qur'an and which empower women. Such ahadith are often suppressed or at least not highlighted except by those who believe in justice to women.”

The idea that patriarchy has a grip on human development is not unique to Islam. And certainly the way in which this grip has been abused – that is, the way in which it has been utilized in order to justify abuse – I think the idea of a link between Islam and patriarchy is not inherent in Islam itself, but inherent in the context of Islamic origin. So it is very easy to go back in Islamic history or tradition, or even in [Islamic] intellectual development, and find justification for maintaining patriarchy and giving it an Islamic slant.

Dr. Amina Wadud

Amina Wadud is a professor of Islamic studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University. On March 18th 2005, she became the first Muslim woman to lead a Muslim Friday prayer in the United States. This was a controversial action.