Sunday, 25 February 2018

Can Women Trust Classical Islamic Scholarship to Have Been Free From Patriarchal Influence?

Bassam Zawadi explains why the feminist claim that the Islamic tradition has been influenced by patriarchy (in the negative sense of that word) is so confused.
***Can We Trust Classical Islamic Scholarship to Have Been Free From Patriarchal Influence?***

There is a difference between:
- Worrying about “patriarchal” influences affecting some scholars some times, and…
- Worrying about “patriarchal” influences affecting ALL classical scholars during ALL times
The first is a possibility. The second is not. The reason why it’s not is for a number of theological, historical, and rational reasons.

1) Historical Reasons
Muslim scholars have the ability to trace many the rulings we have today concerning women back to the Sahabah and the earliest subsequent generations. Unless modernists today are willing to bite the bullet (which some do, more on this below) and claim that the Sahabah and the subsequent generations were patriarchal societies who’s cultures and customs tainted their interpretation of Islam, then they must be hard pressed to formulate a historical argument demonstrating when exactly Islam’s scriptures fell prey to patriarchal exegetes and jurists. They need to pinpoint for us (even if roughly) during which point in Islamic history this supposed intellectual catastrophe started to take form.
The reality of the matter is that they will not be able to do so.

2) Rational Reasons
Islamic scholarship HAS ALWAYS AND NEVER STOPPED studying the role of custom (‘urf) in Islamic jurisprudence. Much ink has been spilled by the scholars of Islam who discussed in intricate detail the role of custom on Islamic rulings. They strived extremely hard in their attempts to distinguish which rulings are fixed or variable to differing conditions or customs.
To claim that all of these tens of thousands of experts over the course of over a millennium from dozens of various geographical locations failed to identify that patriarchal customs have influenced much of what Islamic scholarship has to say on women’s Islamic issues is a very heavy loaded statement. In fact, it amounts to a very sexist and spiteful stance against male scholars and questions their scholarship and sincerity for seeking the truth. This is nothing but sheer ad hominem and misandry (i.e. hatred of men) at display here.
This is also keeping aside the fact that many of the classical scholars were taught by women scholars.

3) Theological Reasons
If modernists do bite the bullet and claim that the Sahabah’s community is a “patriarchal” society which had tainted understandings of scripture, then what do we make of Allah’s statement in the Qur’an “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.” [3:110]. What do we do with all those ahadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) praised his companions and said “[Those who follow] the path which I and my companions follow.” when he spoke about the saved sect?

Furthermore, why didn’t the Prophet teach his companions to overcome “patriarchy” and do away with it? He already asked them to change their minds on the most important thing… their polytheistic religion! He taught them that Arabs aren’t superior to non-Arabs. He taught them that tribalism is wrong. He taught them that blindly believing what your forefathers taught is wrong. Etc. etc. He taught them to abandon so many things WHICH WERE DEEPLY ENTRENCHED into their beliefs and culture. Things WAY MORE important TO THEM than their views on gender roles. So why not? Why not also educate them on gender roles and do away with “patriarchy”? If the Prophet truly was a “gender egalitarian” according to the modernist standards of today, why didn’t he give it any serious attention? Attention serious enough to have sought to eradicate its supposed evil and not permit it’s effects to spread to the bulk of Muslims for a millennium to come? Was it short-sightedness of the Prophet not to do so? (istighfirullah)

Furthermore, how could Allah allow such a deviant notion of “patriarchy” that is supposedly oppressive to women to take hold over the entire Ummah for such a long time? Isn’t this extremely theologically problematic? Why on earth would Allah allow all Muslim scholars to be duped like that for so long?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that Allah will send a mujaddid every century to revitalize the correct understanding of Islam. How come all the mujaddids we could think of in classical Islamic history never spoke out against “patriarchy” as the modernists would claim have existed? Isn’t it even worse that Allah would choose the 20th century, and in particular allow kuffar who are antagonistic to Islam to enlighten us on how to hermeneutically approach the Islamic scriptures properly? Why would Allah give the blessed role of “mujaddid” to kafir secular liberals? Isn’t that strange and odd on a theological level?

So much more could be said, however in summary….
- What classical Islamic scholarship claims to be “fixed” stances on women rulings in Islam (e.g. Muslim women cannot marry kuffar, authority of husband over wife, etc.), yet are rejected by modernists today as “sexist”, could historically be traced back to the time of the Prophet and his companions.
- To discount as unreliable the bulk of classical scholarship simply because they are male, is sexist and irrational hatred and spite of men.
- The notion that the Muslim ummah had to wait to be enlightened by kuffar to have a correct understanding of gender roles in Islam is very theologically problematic. This also questions the reliability of the Qur’an’s and Prophet Muhammad’s vouching for the Sahabah as the best pious generation.

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