Gender Bender II

Posted by sepoy on May 28, 2004 · 3 mins read

A discussion arose out of my earlier post where I bemoaned the lack of equality between the sexes in Pakistan & Bangladesh. I was asked to justify that p.o.v on "religious" grounds. On the issue of gender in Islam, others have done a masterful job: Fatima Mernissi's The Veil and The Male Elite, Leila Ahmad's Women and Gender in Islam and Amina Waddud's Qur'an and Women spring immediately to mind.
I will post on the question of "political leadership" in the near future but I want to show the ambiguity on gender in the Qur'an.

What is immediately notable in the three books I have selected is that they all deal with the text of the Qur'an as opposed to the jurisprudence tradition. It is mainly because it is in the body of Qur'an itself that we can trace the inherent contradiction: A community [ummah] made of Believers who are equal before God and a differentiated status given to women in the society. Just a few examples from Surahs The Clans and The Women:

[4:124]††And whoever does good deeds whether male or female and he (or she) is a believer-- these shall enter the garden, and they shall not be dealt with a jot unjustly.
[33:35]††Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember-- Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.
[4:32]††And do not covet that by which Allah has made some of you excel others; men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace; surely Allah knows all things.
[4:34]††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.

Facing these verses (they are only a sample), I continue to feel that the spirit of equality which permeates the Qur'an overrides, in my views, the other divergences. For now, I call to your attention Hijabman's excellent post on women leading prayer. [Thanks Zack]