Qur'an Should be Rewritten or Reread? Neither.
Dr. Parvin Darabi
April 7, 2008
As a Shiite Muslim born and raised in Iran now living freely in America, I read the article Feminists Reread the Qur'an, by Anjuman Ali, in the November issue, with a lot of interest. It is commendable that some American women raised under other religions are trying to reread and reinterpret Qur'an so that they may be able to enjoy the freedoms bestowed upon us by the American bill of rights, as newly converted Muslim women. However, the notion that for over 1400 years, Qur'an has been misinterpreted by male scholars to be anti-woman is troublesome to me. Are these fine ladies saying that all these men who read, interpreted and preached the Qur'an (Islam Holy Book), the Sharia (Islamic Laws), the Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) for centuries were all wrong and these few women now have the answers for all those poor women living under the Islamic Laws? I find that highly unlikely.
Just look at the recent events in the Islamic world, a movie is made about the actual life of a typical Muslim woman and the movie maker is shot to death because he, Van Gogh, had insulted Islam and the woman who told the story for the movie, the fact that it was true was irrelevant. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, scared to death for her life had to flee the Netherlands. A bunch of cartoons are published in a Danish paper and Muslims in London, Pakistan and other Islamic capitals protest, carrying signs stating that if anyone insults Islam he or she will be killed. A father in Canada kills his sixteen year old daughter because she refuses to wear the Islamic tent (hijab). Another father in Sweden kills his daughter because she wanted to marry a man of her choice and not of her father’s. A teacher allows her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed and has to flee for her life. A woman in Saudi Arabia is ganged raped which gets her 200 lashes and six months in prison. Another woman in Saudi Arabia watches a program on television alone and because the person on the television happened to be a man. This leads to her husband divorcing her on the grounds that she was alone with a man. The man was on the television screen but the Saudi religious court agrees that she had broken Islamic law. A woman must only watch television with a male family member around.
In the article Ingrid Mattesen refers to the laws of Islamic justice where two women are needed to have witnessed a crime or a contract whereas one man is enough to be counted in a court of law. However, she does not state that in the Islamic countries where the Sharia is the law of the land in order to prove rape a woman must have as witness four just men or three just men and two just women who would testify to the actual crime of rape. That is why it is so difficult for women in the Islamic courts to prove rape and receive justice. I don’t know of any rapist who would rape a woman in front of four just men or three just men and two just women.
Also according to the Sharia laws the retribution or blood money for a man is equal to the market value of 100 camels or two hundred cows and for women and non-Muslim men is half as much or 50 camels or 100 cows. Women cannot initiate divorce or get custody of their children even if their husbands die. Men, however; can divorce their wives without their knowledge and have to support them for a period of 100 days to make sure that they were not pregnant at the time of divorce.
I suppose it is easy for women such as Karen Armstrong, Amina Wadud, Ingrid Mattesen and others who have been born and raised in a free country, where as children and adults they could make choices, to defend Islam and want to reread and reinterpret the book. After all they have no worries, the Western constitutions and the American bill of rights protects their rights even as Muslims. I would like to see Amina Wadud, Ingrid Matteson, Laleh Bakhtiar and their likes to go to Saudi Arabia or Iran and try to tell those Islamic scholars that they have misinterpreted Islam for more than 1400 years and see how long they can keep their heads on their shoulders. Frankly their research is more needed in Saudi Arabia than in the United States of America.
The inequality of the sexes in Islam is quite obvious by the covering of women and not the men. If babies, boys and girls are born the same without any clothing then why all of a sudden must a girl at age seven be covered from head to toe, be denied the pleasure of bathing in a lake, having her hair blown in the wind or feel the warmth of the sun on her skin? When a woman such as Amina Wadud places the Islamic tent on herself it states that she believes that she is nothing but a sex object for her male counterparts and only the seclusion of the tent allows her to function as a human being. The hijab or the Islamic tent for women came about due to the prophet’s lust for women. It is well known in the Islamic world that the prophet had his many wives to live in different rooms in the same house. When men came to visit they sometime flirted with his wives. Unhappy with this situation he then ordered the women behind a curtain. Coincidentally it was at this time that the revelation Nur was given to him which by the way states that women must cover their bosom and lower their eyes and never look at a man’s eyes. Anyway what is wrong with beauty? A woman without a tent with a make up is a lot more interesting to look at and listen to than a woman wrapped in a black shroud such as the one on Amina Wadud’s picture. In all honesty she looks scary.
The picture of Amina Wadud reminded me of the Islamic head mistress, named Kobra Khanoum, I had as a child going to the religious school instead of preschool. She was so wrapped up in her quest to achieve an stake in Islamic heaven than she did not understand that her pupils were young children more interested in discovering the world they had been born into than the afterlife she was trying to pursue. Now I understand why I used to ran away from the school after one hour of her class. My religious teacher was just like the picture of Amina Wadud, a stern woman with a purpose, cold as ice. She always carried a stick under her hijab and lashed us if we laughed or giggled. As Ayatollah Khomeini stated following the establishment of the government of God in Iran, “there is no joy in Islam.” Like my teacher, Kobra Khanoum, there is also no joy or emotion in Amina Wadud’s picture either. As I remember Kobra Khanoum was always wrapped in black from head to toe, always reading the Qur'an and preaching Islam and the joy of afterlife in a heaven full of fruit and flowers, wine running in its rivers and were men are given 72 virgins. We were never told what women got when they went to heaven. Later I discovered that according to the prophet majority of women never make it to the Islamic heaven (I was standing on the edge of the fire (hell) and the majority of the people going in were women, Prophet Muhammad). After all why should they? Why in the hell would a woman want to go to heaven after a life of sharing her husband with three other women permanently (and under Shiite Islam with as many on a temporary basis) and witness the orgy of her husband with 72 virgins.
We can also discover the inequality of women in Islam from the relationship the prophet had with his many wives, the youngest only being 6 years of age when they married (he was around 54 and according to Muslims he did not consummate his marriage to her until she was 9 years old)!
In Qur'an Allah meddles in the marital problems of the prophet and his wives 17 times and each time Allah sides with the Prophet.
According to Ali Dashti, in his book, thirty three years, when the prophet’s wives complained that he had not been just with them and was spending too much time with his newest wife, apparently Allah came to his rescue and sent the following revelation.
Qur'an 66:5 states “May be, his lord, if he divorces you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins.”
Now I am asking all these fine female Islamic scholars to tell me why a fair and balanced Allah would say such a thing to a man, any man, that is to tell his wives to either shut up or I will tell him to divorce you and get better wives. Where is justice for the women in this revelation?
In Islam the law allows men to have as many as four wives at the same time, however, for some reason unknown to all Muslims Allah sent the following revelation which basically states that this law does not apply to the prophet himself. However, there is no explanation why the law did not apply to him. There is no such thing as signing statements we are so accustomed to recently with this revelation either.
Qur'an 33:50 Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses (slaved women, booty of the war) out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her—specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
I would like to ask all these Muslim converts named in this article to explain to me why they find nothing wrong with this revelation? How can this be justice? This is in the Qur'an and is considered the word of Allah and has nothing to do with tradition or patriarchy as stated by the women in this article so unconvincingly try to explain.
If would have been quite beneficial if Ms. Ingrid Matteson would give us a reference to the revelations which backs her statement, “The Qur'an recognizes women’s autonomy, individuality, spiritual equality.” The only equality for women in Qur'an is the submission to the tenants of Islam and that is about it. A woman must pray, fast, give alms and worship Allah just like a man. Nevertheless, that does not give her equality in other aspect of life such as economics, education, inheritance, custody and the right to choose whom to marry or to get a divorce.
I almost, fell out of my chair laughing when I read how Laleh Bakhtiar interpreted the Arabic word “zaraba” or as she says it “daraba” meaning to beat to the meaning of “to go away.” She should have explained the entire revelation and not just the one word.
The revelation 4:34 states “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”
What this revelation says is that men are superior to women and because they provide for, and spend their property on them. Because they do these things, they have the right to have obedient wives. And if these wives did not obey then a man must scold them first and then separate them in their bedrooms and finally beat them. It should be noted that there is no statement in this revelation stating that if a woman provides for her husband then he must be obedient to her. The issue in marriage should be that of a partnership between men and women and not the relationship of master and slave.
Life after all is a journey where we as free human beings men and women both, have the right to make choices. Amina Wadud, Ingrid Matteson, Laleh Bakhtiar have been free to make their own life choices. Tragically, my sister, Dr. Homa Darabi, a well known pediatrician, child and adolescence psychiatrist did not have the same right in the Islamic Republic of Iran and that is why she self-immolated on a public square in Tehran on February 21, 1994 dying age 54 to protest the oppressive treatment of women living under the Sharia. Her ordeal is recounted in “Rage Against the Veil”, Prometheus Books, 1999.
In conclusion I wish these women luck in their plight as they strive to reinterpret Qur'an so they can have some rights in their lives as Muslim women. But actually it is not very beneficial for us as liberated women living in the free world to defend Islam and Qur'an while millions of our sisters in these Islamic countries are living under slave-like conditions. We must have a dialogue with the rulers of these nations. We have to make our foreign aid to these nations conditional upon their government’s activities toward liberation of their laws regarding their women. We can’t accept the preposterous excuse Karen Armstrong gives for the many wives of Mohammed. "why should God not give his Prophet a few privileges?" So in her opinion women are nothing but sexual privileges.
The only way to modernize Islam is to rewrite the Qur'an and not to reread the Qur'an. And that would cause another Islamic turbulence like the publication of the Danish cartoons and some innocent and ignorant people will die. The best way for Muslims, men and women to bring equality and justice to their lives is by separating mosque and state. Muslim families can worship Muhammad and Allah privately to safe guard their place in the Islamic heaven rather than forcing all of us born into a Muslim family to live by the Qur'an, Sharia and the Sunna. And women running around wearing a tent are scary people because we never know what they are hiding under their tent. It could be a stick, a gun or a bomb, or there may not even be a woman under the tent; it could very well be a man.