Why Muslim women wear black

A07E7D07-FBAA-4EC0-B4AE-8B246AA2C330Some ‘scholars’ wrongly use Surah Nur, verse 31 to claim a Muslim woman must not wear clothes which may be considered an ‘adornment’ (See my blog here for more about what this verse actually means).

 

Subsequently, there is a common belief that Muslim women must dress in certain colours so as to not attract the attention of men. This usually involves wearing black or a similar colour.

 

I’ve always found this interesting because whether or not a colour is attractive is very subjective.

 

Furthermore, when I looked into it, this idea of certain colours for women actually goes against the evidence.

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/42)

…’Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green covering (translations commonly use the word ‘veil’ here but ‘covering’ would be more accurate) ……

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/59)

Anas bin Malik narrated that he had seen Um Kulthum, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle (saaws), wearing a red silk garment.

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/40)

The Prophet (saaws) was given some clothes including a black Khamisa. The Prophet said,”To whom shall we give this to wear?” The people kept silent whereupon the Prophet said, “Fetch Um Khalid for me.” I (Um Khalid) was brought carried (as I was small girl at that time). The Prophet took the Khamisa in his hands and made me wear it and said, “May you live so long that your dress will wear out and you will mend it many times.” On the Khamisa there were some green or pale designs (The Prophet saw these designs) and said, “O Um Khalid! This is Sanah.” (Sanah in a Ethiopian word meaning ‘beautiful’).

 

Sunan of Abu Dawood (https://sunnah.com/abudawud/34/47)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, “We came down with the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) from a turning of a valley. He turned his attention to me and I was wearing a garment dyed with a reddish yellow dye. He asked: What is this garment over you? I recognised what he disliked. I then came to my family who were burning their oven. I threw it (the garment) in it and came to him the next day. He asked: Abdullah, what have you done with the garment? I informed him about it. He said: Why did you not give it to one of your family to wear, for there is no harm in it for women.”

 

So, we have evidence of green, reddish yellow and black with designs. When we put this together with the fact that there is no evidence in both the Quran or the Sunnah stating women must dress in particular colours, it becomes obvious that this is an indoctrination based upon subjectivity, culture and the opinions of male scholars.

Are two female witnesses equal to one male witness?

2856C603-49C0-4C40-9F36-418560B20345There are many who claim that a woman’s testimony is lesser than that of a man’s. They use this verse in Surah Al Baqarah (282) to claim that two female witnesses are equal to one male witness:

 

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُم كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَن يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئاً فَإن كَانَ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَن يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ شَهِيدَيْنِ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَآءِ أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الاٍّخْرَى وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَآءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ وَلاَ تَسْـَمُواْ أَن تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَـدَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ إِلاَ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَـرَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلاَّ تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُواْ إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلاَ يُضَآرَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلاَ شَهِيدٌ وَإِن تَفْعَلُواْ فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

 

O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write, as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must have Taqwa of Allah, his Lord, and diminish not anything of what he owes. But if the debtor is of poor understanding, or weak, or is unable to dictate for himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice. 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. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called (for evidence). You should not become weary to write it (your contract), whether it be small or big, for its fixed term, that is more just with Allah; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves, save when it is a present trade which you carry out on the spot among yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it down. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract. Let neither scribe nor witness suffer any harm, but if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So have Taqwa of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.

 

Many ‘scholars’ claim that women’s hormones (particularly during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle) render them more emotional and induce some sort of decline in cognitive function; Women’s memories aren’t as good as a man’s – or so they believe.

 

However, evidence on the impact of hormones remains a matter of debate (See https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/period-cognitive-functioning-research_n_596cbd21e4b03389bb18e573) and so cannot be used until we have definitive conclusions.

 

In other words, they are taking a command from Scripture and trying to justify it using their perspective on women’s issues. In many cultures, menstruation and related topics are taboo and perceived negatively and this will of course, affect perspectives. More importantly, the religion must be understood by taking a look at the evidence within the religion itself and not what is proposed by the Scientific world (as this may and often changes) or by popular culture.

 

So, let’s take a closer look at why Allah commanded that two female witnesses be called in the place of a single male?

 

Firstly, let us take a closer look at the verse above:

 

1). The verse does NOT, in fact, state that two women are equal to one man. Rather, two women are called but the second is only asked if the first ‘errs’. In other words, the second woman may not even be asked – leaving us with the testimony of one man and one woman. This tells us one woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man’s.

 

If the situation does necessitate the second woman’s testimony, then we will have the testimony of two women and one man. This does not however, mean women have lower cognitive function or that men have better memories.

 

2). The translation of the verse above uses the word ‘errs’. The word used in Arabic is ‘تَضِلَّ’  which, despite common belief, does NOT mean ‘forgets’. It means ‘goes astray’ (Have a look at the many times it occurs in the Quran). Obviously, ‘forgetting’ is different from ‘going astray’. ‘Forgetting’ is ‘failing to remember’ whereas ‘going astray’ is ‘getting something wrong’. Furthermore, ‘going astray’/making an error indicates a lack of knowledge or understanding.

 

3). The Quran restricts the calling of two female witnesses to this type of event (i.e. monetary transactions). In other situations, like witnessing a theft or murder, a second female witness is not required.

 

In summary, the verse states the second woman is only asked if the first female witness ‘errs’. The use of the word ‘errs’ signifies a lack of knowledge/understanding NOT a decline in cognitive function and the calling of two females instead of a male witness is only in the prescribed context.

 

Now, to move on to ahadith;

 

Further explanation is found in a well known hadith (for the sake of brevity, you can find it here) which clearly states that it is due to women not having the knowledge/understanding about these types of transactions. The culture when the Quran was revealed was one where women were mistreated and abused (e.g. daughters were not wanted and often killed by their parents). They did not have rights and many would not have been involved in such transactions. Many would have been illiterate. Such cultures still thrive today. And the timeless nature of the religion recognises that.

 

In conclusion, it is NOT that two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. Rather, there are times (if the first errs) when the testimony of two women may be taken alongside one man’s testimony. In these instances, this is due to a lack of knowledge/understanding of the specific transaction and NOT a blanket indication that women make poorer witnesses compared to men or that it takes the cognitive abilities of two women to match that of a man’s. As always, the evidence speaks for itself.

 

 

YouTube isn’t for Muslim women

 

97F7DAA7-DB84-4194-918A-F93A2629688CRecently, I came across a YouTube video which was about Muslim female vloggers. It claimed these women, by making vlogs on make-up and clothing were directly disobeying a verse from the Quran. I have heard the same verse used many times by ‘scholars’ to propagate that a Muslim woman

 

-Must stay at home unless there is a real necessity to come out (i.e. must not have a job outside the home).

-Cannot wear make-up outside her home

-Must be completely shrouded so only her eyes are uncovered

-If she must leave the house, a male companion will accompany her

 

However, as I’m sure you’ll know, many people repeating the same mantra does not make the mantra a truth.

 

Let’s take a look at the verse. It is from Surah Al Ahzaab, verse 33:

 

وَقَرْنَ فِى بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلاَ تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَـهِلِيَّةِ الاٍّولَى وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَوةَ وَءَاتِينَ الزَّكَـوةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُـمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيــراً

 

And stay in your houses, and do not Tabarruj yourselves like the Tabarruj of the times of ignorance, and perform the Salah, and give Zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah wishes only to remove the Ar-Rijs from you, O members of the family, and to purify you with a thorough purification.

 

Above is the common translation of the verse and the English translation is a direct reflection of what the ‘scholars’, for centuries now, have been interpreting the verse to mean. An interpretation tainted with deeply embedded misogyny and a need to control women. Yet, despite the layers of distortion and misguidance, the truth remains; The Quran holds the key to true understanding.

 

Firstly, if you loot at the verse before this one in the Quran, you will clearly understand these words are directed towards the wives of the Prophet. Secondly, the word (an imperative verb)  ‘قَرْنَ’  is interpreted as ‘Stay’ when its root ‘وقر’ is in fact the same for the noun used in Surah Nuh, verse 13:

 

مَّا لَكُمْ لَا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقَارًا

 

What is the matter with you, that you do not hope for any majesty/dignity from Allah?

 

Hence, the true meaning of this part of the verse is ‘Dignify yourselves in your homes’.

 

Now, the meaning of ‘tabarruj’ is of paramount importance. It is often transliterated like this because many ‘scholars’ who studied the Quran did not have a definitive meaning for it but instead offered the opinions of other ‘scholars’ as possible interpretations. Yet, the answer, I believe is there if your mind is open enough.

 

In Surah An Noor, verse 60, Allah (using the same term ‘tabarruj’, in a different form) states:

 

وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَآءِ الَّلَـتِى لاَ يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحاً فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَن يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَـتِ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَن يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عِلِيمٌ

 

And the Qawa`id among women who do not hope for marriage, it is no sin on them if they discard their clothing in such a way as not to be those who do tabarruj/show their adornment. To refrain from tabarruj is better for them. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

 

Interestingly, here the ‘scholars’ have defined ‘tabarruj’ as ‘showing their adornment’ and correctly so. This would also correlate with the verse in Surah An Noor (31) which clearly outlines how and when exactly a Muslim woman should cover.

 

Now, going back to our initial verse (Surah Al Ahzaab, verse 33), ‘tabarruj’ means ‘not to show what Allah has told you to cover’. So, the translation of verse should read as the following:

 

‘And dignify yourselves in your homes and do not show of yourselves what Allah commanded you to cover, like women did in the times of ignorance…’

 

In other words, be dignified, honour yourself by only uncovering/showing your body in your home and do not be immoral by doing such outside. The two statements are one command. It is like saying, ‘Don’t consume margarine and use butter instead’.

 

This is further supported by sayings of the Companions about shamelessness and nudity when people would circumbulate the ka’ba naked. The collection of Bukhari, for example, offers the following:

 

Narrated Abu Huraira: “In the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Allah’s Apostle made Abu Bakr the leader of the pilgrims, the latter (Abu Bakr) sent me in the company of a group of people to make a public announcement: ‘No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year, and no naked person is allowed to perform Tawaf of the Ka’ba.’

 

In summary, the verse in Surah Al Ahzaab, despite being quoted by many – as evidence for the many things a woman cannot do, was in fact a simple command for the wives of the Prophet to dress appropriately or morally as defined by Allah in the Quran.

 

The reality is as Albert Einstein is quoted to have said. ‘Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.’ Yet, with the light of the Quran to guide us, as Muslims, we have no excuse.

NO to Women leaders

68873EE5-AB23-4818-A6A3-0075262ED2D8

If I had a pound for every time I have heard the statement “A Muslim woman can’t do that!”, I would have become a rich woman long ago. 

 

One issue that stayed with me for many years is the one of leadership. According to some ‘scholars’, there is evidence from the Prophet – a hadith which states that I as a woman can not and should not, attempt to stand for roles of leadership, the judiciary, or even manage my own business myself. 

 

This is the Hadith in the collection of Bukhari;

 

Narrated Abu Bakra:

 

During the battle of Al-Jamal, Allah benefited me with a Word (I heard from the Prophet). When the Prophet heard the news that the people of the Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said, “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler’.

 

The ‘scholars’ usually quote a shorter version which removes the context. It reads;

 

He (The Prophet) said, “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler’.

 

Often, there are reasons added to this as to why women are simply wrong for leadership;

 

1). That women are too emotional.

2). Decision making is affected by hormonal changes during the menstruation cycle.

3). Women need to take care of the domestic sphere and children.

4). A female leader would then attempt to subjugate her husband and treat him like an employee.

5). Men are more intelligent.

 

Going back to the longer version of the hadith, context is always necessary to understand fully what is meant. 

 

The Prophet was talking about a specific nation – Persia and stating that the Muslims would be successful over the Persians. It was, simply put, a prophecy which later came true (after the Prophet’s death).

 

Let’s look at it from another angle also. The angle of real evidence. Looking both at history and current times, there are many examples of successful female leadership. These include the UK (Margaret Thatcher), Germany (Angela Merkel), Norway (Erna Solberg), and Taiwan (Tsai Ing-Wen) – to mention but a few.

 

If we believe the Prophet’s words to be true then how could the above hadith be a general statement about women not being able to be successful leaders when there are so many examples of just that?

 

In fact, the Prophet’s first wife Khadija had her own business empire and is a great example of female leadership. She certainly did not give it all up to become a Muslim nor was she expected to.

 

So, in conclusion, Islam does NOT tell us Muslim women cannot do a list of things. No, that list comes from the mouths of men and a mixing of misogynistic patriarchy with religion. Gender does not determine how good a job you can do – whether the job is in leadership, the judiciary, management, or any other sector. It isn’t WHAT you are that makes the difference. It’s WHO you are at your core, your values, and principles which makes a great leader. 

THE FACELESS MUSLIM WOMAN

niqab_2014-06-23_21-10

 

Many ‘scholars’ strongly advise that a Muslim woman should cover her face. It is apparently ‘highly recommended’ as the face is a cause for initial attraction. What this connotes is that she is somehow responsible for awakening in men the desires which may lead them astray.

 

We’re going to have a look at some of the evidence popularly used to claim Muslim women should cover their faces.

 

1. Sahih Bukhari has this hadith:

 

عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: لقد كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يُصلّي الفجر ، فيشهدُ معه نساءٌ من المؤمنات متلفعاتٌ بِمُرُوطِهنّ ، ثم يرجعن إلى بيوتهن ، ما يَعرفُهُنّ أحدٌ.

 

Narrated ‘Aisha that Allah’s Prophet used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their woollen sheets, used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognized.

 

These ‘scholars’ argue that because the women were unrecognisable, it must be because their faces were covered by their sheets.

 

There are in fact, several versions of the same hadith (found in Bukhari, Muslim, An Nisa’i and Abu Dawud). In the collection of Bukhari itself, another version of the hadith is as follows;

 

عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: إن كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ليصلي الصبح فينصرف النساء متلفعات بمروطهن ما يعرفن من الغلس.

 

The meaning of this version is the same as the one I posted first EXCEPT for a tiny addition. This version gives the REASON the women were unrecognisable. The word on the end ‘ghuls’ means ‘darkness’. People could not recognise the women due to DARKNESS and not because they had their faces covered.

 

Interestingly, although there are a number of ahadith which include the reason (ie. because it was dark’), it is the version which doesn’t that is used most often. 

 

2. This hadith is from Bukhari also:

وقال أحمد بن شبيب حدثنا أبي عن يونس قال ابن شهاب عن عروة عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت يرحم الله نساء المهاجرات الأول لما أنزل الله وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن شققن مروطهن فاختمرن بها 

 

Aisha (the wife of the Prophet) said, ‘May Allah have mercy upon the early emigrant women; when ‘And draw your scarves over your necklines’ (Surah An Noor, verse 31) was revealed, they took their ‘muruut’, tore them, and made covers of them.’

 

This hadeeth is usually translated INCORRECTLY with ‘fakhtamarna biha’ as ‘ covered their faces’  instead of ‘made covers of them’. The verb here ‘fakhtamarna’ (in bold) is from the same root as ‘khimaar’. Although ‘khimaar’ is now used to mean ‘headscarf’, it actually just means ‘cover’. It has certainly never been used linguistically to refer to a covering of the face. In fact men in the Middle East also wear a khimaar and it does not cover the face.

 

3. Most translations of verse 31 of surah an Noor read like this – ‘And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and preserve their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way).

 

The words in brackets will be understood by many who do not understand the Quran in its original Arabic as the words of the Almighty. Consequently, women may feel that they have no choice and that their faces and hands should be covered as well as their bodies. 

 

However, the words in brackets are NOT a part of the Quran but are the incorrect understanding of the translator and actually contradict other evidence from the Quran and Sunnah.

 

4. The collection of Abu Dawood has this statement from Aisha, the wife of the Prophet:

 

عن عائشة قالت : ” كَانَ الرُّكْبَانُ يَمُرُّونَ بِنَا وَنَحْنُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مُحْرِمَاتٌ ، فَإِذَا حَاذَوْا بِنَا سَدَلَتْ إِحْدَانَا جِلْبَابَهَا مِنْ رَأْسِهَا عَلَى وَجْهِهَا ، فَإِذَا جَاوَزُونَا كَشَفْنَاهُ “

 

Narrated Aisha, “The riders would pass us while we were in ihram with the Messenger of Allah. When they got close to us, one of us would draw her jilbaab from her head over her face. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces.

 

This account, however, contradicts the following hadith from Bukhari:

 

The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “The woman in the state of Ihram should not cover her face, or wear gloves.”

 

How can it be that the wives of the Prophet covered their faces in ihram when he clearly stated that a woman should not cover her face or hands and he was with them at this time? Obviously there is a problem with the authenticity of Abu Dawud’s account (The collection of Abu Dawud is deemed less authentic compared to Bukhari). So, we cannot use the account attributed to A’isha as credible evidence.

 

Some argue that this Hadith in Bukhari means women did cover their faces normally. However, by that same token, would these same ‘scholars’ claim that when Muslims were told in the Quran not to approach the prayer while intoxicated (4.43), it meant they were usually drunk? Of course not! 

 

I am sure you’ll agree there is a clear pattern emerging here. A significant proportion of the clergy, despite the evidence stating the opposite, feel strongly that women should cover their faces. The question we must ask is ‘why?’.

 

I believe it is due to two reasons; Firstly, the Muslim clergy spend decades studying the OPINIONS of those before them while they should be looking at the primary sources of the Quran and Sunnah. Secondly, many of these interpretations are founded in culture: cultures which are known for subjugating women, removing them from the public sphere, and placing the responsibility of morality upon their shoulders.

 

The evidence speaks for itself if we look with our own eyes and judge with our own intellects. Muslim women should never be faceless. Their presence, their contribution, and their value to society is paramount. Even more importantly, we must follow the religion, not mere opinions.

When Biology becomes destiny for Muslim women

1BCFA7EF-724D-4359-96A6-61AA3CD1A793Biology becomes destiny.

Well, almost.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news these past few months (i.e. Harvey Weinstein, salaries in Hollywood, and here at the BBC), you know that it is becoming glaringly obvious (if it wasn’t already) that women are deemed as lesser by the wider world (to different extents and in various ways, obviously depending upon where you live). The Muslim world takes this even further.

 

One of the ways in which this manifests itself is when Muslim men view women as a ‘trial’. This trial is one of sexual temptation, an allurement towards evil. The male Muslim clergy advise that men must be careful to lower their gaze, to marry if possible, to fast, and so on in order to curb the effects of this ‘trial’. So, women are not only lesser, they are a path to evil, the bad to the man’s good, yin to his yang.

 

This belief has led to Muslim women being forced to cover from head to toe in Persia and the Middle East. Even in the West, a Muslim woman is treated as spiritually inferior, kept separate in mosques, and even stopped from going out of the house lest she lead some poor male soul to distraction on her way to the local supermarket.

The incorrect idea that women are a ‘trial’ because of their sexual appeal comes from the misunderstanding of the hadith in Bukhari when the Prophet said,

” مَا تَرَكْتُ بَعْدِي فِتْنَةً أَضَرَّ عَلَى الرِّجَالِ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ “ 

 

The usual translation is, “I have not left behind me any fitnah (temptation) more harmful to men than women.”

 

‘Fitna’ is the key word here. It appears in the Quran many times so it is easy to check if it has been translated correctly. Here are just two examples.

 

(وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلاَدُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ (8:28

 

‘and know that your worldly goods and your children are but a trial, and that with God there is a tremendous reward.’

 

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ

(22:11)

 

And there is, too, among men many a one who worships God on the border-line [of faith]: thus, if good befalls him, he is satisfied with Him; but if a trial assails him, he turns away utterly, losing both this world and the life to come: this, indeed, is a clear loss.

 

From these verses, you can see ‘Fitna’ does indeed mean ‘trial’ or ‘test’ but it has a generic meaning. There is no temptation or sexual connotation. It is not a case of mistranslation. Rather, the issue here is one of misunderstanding and the sexist culture within which such ahadith are interpreted.

 

What the Hadith is stating is that women are the greatest trial men have. The trial or test is in how they treat them. Is it a relationship of oppressor and oppressed or one of mutual co-operation and respect? Are Muslim men faring well in this trial when many Muslim women are amongst the most oppressed in the world? I think the evidence speaks for itself.

 

The clergy have attempted to make biology destiny for Muslim women and almost succeeded. However, when we reduce women like this to their sexuality, stripping them of what makes them human – their intellect and reason, we also at the same time reduce men to sexual predators and a sum of their desires.

 

In my opinion, that’s a lose-lose situation for us all. For how can we attain our best as individual Muslims and as a community if our opinions of each other are so lowly. The only way now is up and towards the actual evidence of the religion.

ONLY THE PURE TOUCH IT

9EFE102F-4F53-4452-B7A0-4D820AC22B6B

We all know there is evidence to state wudhu or ablution is required before prayer (See  Surah Al Mai’dah, verse 6). Many ‘scholars’ historically and in modern times, unequivocally claim wudhu is needed before touching the Quran too.

This then leads to them claiming a woman on her menses should not touch the Quran because she cannot be in a state of wudhu. However, this becomes baseless if we ascertain that wudhu is not a prerequisite to touching the Holy book.

So, let us take a look at the actual evidence.

Starting at the beginning, the highlighted verse is usually used as evidence to claim that wudhu is necessary before you touch the Quran.

Sura Al Waqi’a, verses 77 – 80,

إِنَّهُ لَقُرْءَانٌ كَرِيمٌ – فِى كِتَـبٍ مَّكْنُونٍ

لاَّ يَمَسُّهُ إِلاَّ الْمُطَهَّرُونَ – تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ

This is indeed an honorable recitation. In a Book, protected. Which none touches except the pure ones. A revelation from the Lord of all that exists.

 

This verse is taken out of context and consequently so easily misinterpreted. This is why I have included both the verses preceding it as well as the one after it. 

 

Now, understanding the Arabic instead of the usual English translations, the verse is stating ‘None can touch it except the pure’. In other words, it is impossible for anyone except the ‘pure’ to touch this Quran. Allah will not allow it.

 

It is worth noting ‘pure’ is not always synonymous with ‘physically clean’ either. For instance, in An Naml, verse 56.

 

فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلاَّ أَن قَالُواْ أَخْرِجُواْ ءَالَ لُوطٍ مِّن قَرْيَتِكُمْ إِنَّهمْ أُنَاسٌ يَتَطَهَّرُونَ

 

There was no other answer given by his people except that they said: “Drive out the family of Lut from your city. Verily, these are people who want to be pure!”

 

This verse is about the people transgressing in terms of sodomy. The family of Lut refused to conform to what was a widely spread practice. In other words, they did not commit sodomy and took the moral ground. ‘Pure’ here refers to ‘morally pure’ as opposed to physical hygiene. This is also the case for the verse in Surah Al Waqi’ah above.

 

Now, we know that Muslims, without performing wudhu, have been able and are able to touch a paper copy of the Quran. Indeed, those who are not Muslims have also done so in public libraries, for example. This would contradict the words of the verse so hence, it cannot mean this.

 

Furthermore, the verse before ‘None can touch it except the pure.’ describes the ‘Quran’ as in a ’protected book’. The paper copies we have are not bound by this protection. This verse is clearly telling us about the ‘copy’ (law-hil-Mahfouz) with Allah. The ‘pure’ are the angels (ie. ‘pure’ from sin, moral).

 

There is evidence from the Quran stating the Quran was not send down with the shayateen/devils, in 26:210 (وَمَا تَنَزَّلَتْ بِهِ الشَّيَـطِينُ) which supports this explanation and informs us why Allah revealed ‘None can touch it except the pure’ – it was to affirm that the Quran was not brought down by the shayateen/devils but by angels.

 

Hence, this verse is not about performing wudhu (ablution) before touching the Quran. In fact there is no Quranic evidence which indicates wudhu is needed before touching a paper copy of the Quran. 

 

Some ‘scholars’ use a hadith which reads as follows,

Ali narrated, ‘Allah’s messenger would recite the Quran in all conditions, as long as he was not ‘junub’.

A hasan hadith from Tirmidhi. 

 

This hadith is firstly not a ruling. It is not something which the Prophet ordered the Muslims to do/refrain from. There are many other things which the Prophet did but which are not rulings for Muslims. This hadith is also about being ‘junub’ (ie. after a wet dream/sexual relations). It is not about menstruation.

 

So, in conclusion, there is no evidence stating wudhu is needed to recite or touch the Quran. Hence, there is absolutely no reason why a menstruating woman cannot touch the Quran. It is simply the opinion of many.  Islam is a religion based upon evidence. Namely, the Quran and the Sunnah (sayings of the Prophet). Misinterpretation has no place in a religion of God.

 

We must get to the truth of issues like this one which seem small but are crucial in breaking a sexist culture. A culture which will continue as long as we follow the opinions of such ‘scholars’.

 

Having a clergy is easier than going it alone because the clergy usually offer us quick answers. It is now the time to prioritise struggle over ease and more importantly, truth over opinion.

The DEFICIENT Muslim woman

D2FF4AA0-AAE6-4444-BCB0-2B1ED683E1B2This hadith and its alternate versions are often used by imams in mosques to claim that women are deficient and lesser than men in Islam and to portray women as temptresses who lead men astray.

 

حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي مَرْيَمَ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي زَيْدٌ ـ هُوَ ابْنُ أَسْلَمَ ـ عَنْ عِيَاضِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، قَالَ خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي أَضْحًى ـ أَوْ فِطْرٍ ـ إِلَى الْمُصَلَّى، فَمَرَّ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ فَقَالَ ” يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ تَصَدَّقْنَ، فَإِنِّي أُرِيتُكُنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِ النَّارِ “. فَقُلْنَ وَبِمَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ” تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعْنَ، وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ، مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَذْهَبَ لِلُبِّ الرَّجُلِ الْحَازِمِ مِنْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ “. قُلْنَ وَمَا نُقْصَانُ دِينِنَا وَعَقْلِنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ” أَلَيْسَ شَهَادَةُ الْمَرْأَةِ مِثْلَ نِصْفِ شَهَادَةِ الرَّجُلِ “. قُلْنَ بَلَى. قَالَ ” فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ عَقْلِهَا، أَلَيْسَ إِذَا حَاضَتْ لَمْ تُصَلِّ وَلَمْ تَصُمْ “. قُلْنَ بَلَى. قَالَ ” فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ دِينِهَا

Bukhari

 

It is usually translated as the following;

 

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) on ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority 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.”

 

This has puzzled, confused and sometimes, angered many a Muslim woman. All because the translation and explanation has been done by those looking at it while wearing sexist spectacles and just like the rose-tinted kind, these spectacles affect the understanding and outlook of all those who wear them.

 

In fact, there are a number of corrections necessary here. 

 

1.   وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ

 

This should read ‘ingratitude to the one(s) who supports the woman’. Of course, this is not synonymous with husband. It could be her father, her brother, her relative and so on.

 

The evidence for this is in the Quran in Surah Al Hajj, verse 13.

 

يَدْعُو لَمَنْ ضَرُّهُ أَقْرَبُ مِن نَّفْعِهِ لَبِئْسَ الْمَوْلَى وَلَبِئْسَ الْعَشِيرُ

 

He calls unto him whose harm is nearer than his profit; certainly an evil ally and certainly an evil helper/supporter. 

(Obviously, it is clear from this verse the word ‘a’sheer’ does not mean ‘husband’!)

 

The reason why this is important is that some Muslim men then link the rest of the Hadith to the spousal relationship using it against their wives to criticise and lower a woman’s intellectual capabilities. 

 

2.    مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَذْهَبَ لِلُبِّ الرَّجُلِ الْحَازِمِ مِنْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ

 

This does not mean ‘I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you.’ Rather, the Prophet was stating, ‘I have not previously recognised, that despite being ‘Naqisaat’ (ie. ‘with something missing’ – see below), one of you could overcome a resolute/strong-willed man’.

 

To completely understand this, we must go back to the context. The women were asked to give in charity. They were advised to take heed in the matters of cursing and ingratitude. Then, the Prophet said something motivating to instil hope in the hearts of the women – that women have the capabilities despite being ‘Naqisaat’ to match and even overcome a man.

 

3.  قُلْنَ وَمَا نُقْصَانُ دِينِنَا وَعَقْلِنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ” أَلَيْسَ شَهَادَةُ الْمَرْأَةِ مِثْلَ نِصْفِ شَهَادَةِ الرَّجُل”. قُلْنَ بَلَى. قَالَ ” فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ عَقْلِهَا، أَلَيْسَ إِذَا حَاضَتْ لَمْ تُصَلِّ وَلَمْ تَصُمْ “. قُلْنَ بَلَى. قَالَ ” فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ دِينِهَا

 

The usual translation (see above) is incorrect.

 

It would be better translated as – “The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is missing in our knowledge/understanding 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 what is missing in her knowledge/understanding. 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 what is missing in her religion.”

 

For those who would like more insight into the Arabic, the term ‘nuqsaan’ translates to ‘missing/absent’. ‘Aql’ does not refer to intelligence. Rather if we look at its usage in the Quran, it refers to ‘understanding based upon knowledge’. 

 

There are many examples in the Quran but I will just point out one (Surah Al Baqarah, verse 73),

فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا كَذَلِكَ يُحْىِ اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَى وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَـتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

 

So We said: “Strike him (the dead man) with a piece of it (the cow).” Thus Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His Ayat (proofs, evidences, etc.) so that you may understand.

 

The Prophet was expressing that a woman despite the fact that, in a specific situation (See Al Baqarah, verse 282) is called as a witness as part of a pair and despite the fact that she misses prayers when she is menstruating, a woman is still able to triumph over a man. 

 

There are those out there who will always point to women as sexual beings, as temptresses. Again, this depends upon the spectacles they are wearing for their world view. 

 

Upon scrutiny, it is clear that this hadith is not about women being inferior. It is not about women as sexual beings. It is the recount of the Muslim women at the time being asked to give in charity. It is also for us to take heed of being grateful to those who work to support us and to be careful of cursing. Yet, it is also an affirmation that women should not be underestimated either by themselves or the men around them.

 

My advice to anyone out there who has read this hadith or any other and felt confusion, injustice, depression, anger, or any other emotion is to always question what the clergy offer. To search for the truth endlessly until you find it. The religion is never the problem. The Lord is Just and Fair. Sexism both within the Muslim world and the wider society is the real issue. Indeed, it is the spectacles the male clergy wear that are causing confusion and misleading us.

Its time for us to see the truth for ourselves.

 

Beat her lightly

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Islam is not the rod with which men beat women. I have just watched yet another so-called ‘Sheikh’ on YouTube state the Quran allows men to beat their wives. Enough is enough. For generations, Muslim women around the world have suffered and continue to suffer from domestic violence and abuse because of such opinions.

Those in a position of power or authority will always present dogma so that they are not undermined. It has served the Muslim clergy well historically and to this day, feeds into a patriarchal culture whereby the husband is somehow responsible or a moral guide for the wife. Thus, she is deemed spiritually lesser, requiring discipline.

The whole argument pivots on the translation of one word – the Arabic verb ‘Dharaba’ (in Surah An Nisa’, verse 34). It is a word which has a huge array of meanings in the Quran including ‘to bring forth’, ‘to strike the ground with a stick’, ‘to deal with’ and so on. Context is all important in helping us to understand what it means in each case in the Quran.

The common misconception that Islam allows and even encourages wife beating is down to a sexist and cultural context within which, this word ‘Dharaba’ is wrongly translated as ‘beat/hit’. This translation works for those cultures where women are seen as lesser citizens, beings to be subjugated and ruled over. In other words, it is not Islam but men who legalize and normalize wife beating. Worse, they use the banner of Islam to hide what is blatantly oppression and wrongdoing.

If you study all the instances of ‘dharaba’ in the Quran and the example of the Prophet, it is clear it means ‘to go away/separate’.

The verse is very clear. If a husband sees ‘nushuz’(ie. an uprising – unreasonable demands) from his wife;

1). He admonishes/speaks to her about it
2). Forsakes her in the bed
3). Separates/goes away

This process is exactly what the Prophet did with his wives when they wanted more financially than he had to give. So my question now is, do the Fuqaha (jurists) know the religion better than the Prophet did?

What allows the same patterns to be perpetuated is that many Muslim women often do not feel able to come forward and seek help. They are afraid that they will be blamed instead of being comforted, reminded that, wife beating is a right of the husband. Terrified of what taking a stand will cost them. In unity comes strength so as Muslim women, we must stand with these women, with our hearts and minds, the correct knowledge of the religion in our hands.

I believe any change in society starts from within us. We, as Muslims, need to change our views so women can come forward and break the chains of silent suffering. We must offer comfort rather than judgement. Most important of all, our understanding and advice must be based upon actual knowledge and Scripture as opposed to deeply entrenched cultural and patriarchal injustices.

Like I said, enough is enough.

For detailed evidence, click this link.

MUSLIM WOMEN are more than ‘Hijab’.

8890505903_abd85199da_bTell a lie long enough, it becomes the ‘truth’.

The word ‘hijab’ appears in the Quran 7 times. Not one of these is in reference to women covering. Nevertheless, Muslims all around the world, whether they speak Arabic or not, talk about ‘hijab’.

‘Hijab’ is Quranic Arabic for ‘barrier’ although it is commonly used for the veil/scarf and translated as ‘covering’,  ‘concealing’ or a ‘curtain’. This is an idea which has been propagated, most likely for centuries, by the predominately Arab male Muslim clergy. A clergy, which has objectified women as much as the Western world has sexualised them. Two sides of the same coin.

After spending years of my life researching women’s issues in Islam, a journey which has taken me places both physically and psychologically, I realised that out of the Quran’s 6235 verses, only 2 are about how women in general should dress in public. That’s around 0.03% of the Holy Book. An indication of how much of a Muslim woman’s faith is about her dress.

One (33:59) tells us to cover ourselves so we are known as Muslims. The other (24:31) that the chest and legs should be covered – the legs covered in a way as not to reveal what is beneath the covering. That’s it.

God tells Muslim women to cover their bodies so that they are known as Muslim women (The culture at the time of revelation was one where people often exposed themselves). Sadly, the majority of Muslim women are unaware of this and wear a headscarf and often a cloak and a face covering (they believe) to safeguard their beauty. That is because they are basing their opinion on the commonly accepted term ‘hijab’ for how they should dress.

I chose the path of Islam, learnt Classical Arabic and am memorising and studying the Quran. I have worn a scarf, a jilbaab (cloak/robe) and even a niqaab (face veil). Based upon God’s word, I now wear modest clothing. My religion is founded upon my own research and studies. I ask all other Muslim women to do the same.

Language and thought are strongly connected. When we use the word ‘hijab’, there are obvious connotations. We are making the whole issue about sexuality. Women become a temptation needing to be tempered, with the potential to lead men astray. It is a term founded in culture. A term that serves the needs of men as it then leads to further arguments that women need to cover their bodies with cloaks (jilabib), their faces (niqaab), and even infringes on their civil liberties (e.g. working, sports, going out/travelling without a male relative). Frankly, it reduces women so that they end up not having a voice or in extreme situations, even a presence.

I believe that we need to stop using the word ‘hijab’. It is a baseless concept. Women regardless of their religion are not defined by men and the word ‘hijab’ is doing exactly that. It leads to Muslim girls as young as 5 years being ‘sexualised’ when they are shrouded in a scarf and sometimes even a cloak. It is a term intertwined with cultural expectations involving shame, honour, and purity. A means by which a woman’s piety can be judged.

Many a Muslim will argue for ‘hijab’ claiming it is not just for a woman’s body but for her character and the way she interacts with the world. I argue the exact opposite. Dressing modestly, based upon evidence, brings religion to the forefront while kicking sexualisation firmly into the background.

We are more than our bodies. It’s time to move forward and it’s up to us as Muslim women to lead the way.