The psychology of hate and why men hate the ‘other’ women

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes” – Winston Churchill

Abu Eesa made a mistake. And it is my sincere belief that if he has been a real student of Islam, he has learned valuable lessons from it (although it’s hard to say what lessons he has learned as a ‘scholar’).

Islam teaches humility and repentance to Allah if you have hurt another human’s feelings (particularly if that human is another Muslim). Quran categorically lists the errors of some of the prophets all of whom were wise men and competent judges of their people so that humanity can learn from their mistakes and from their habit of repentance. Quran also reprimands the Prophet Muhammad when he (80:3–11): عبس وتولي  – “frowned and turned away.” This entire Quranic chapter is called عبس, meaning ‘frown’ and tells the Prophet that he was indeed wrong in frowning and turning away from a blind man who had approached him for he may have learned valuable lessons from the Prophet and may have grown in purity. The chapter goes on to tell the Prophet that he paid eager attention to the ones who could see/the self-sufficient/the knowledgable  even though he could not guarantee that they would increase in purity, yet ignored the blind man who ran to him with eagerness and fear of God in his heart.

What do we learn from this chapter? We learn that indeed it is the job of the teachers of deen to attend to the needs of everyone who seek their knowledge (including the self-sufficient and the needy) but it is particularly important for them not to frown and turn away from anyone who is a fellow Muslim because they do not know how much eagerness or fear of God they have in their hearts. Moreover, they don’t know who may benefit from their wisdom. To then mock them, and curse them to “wither and wiggle in rage” is certainly not in keeping with the Prophet’s sunnah nor is it in accordance with the teachings of the Quran.

People who support this blatant disregard for the Prophetic tradition and Quranic discipline and adab are at greater fault. In this most remarkable essay, the writer argues that “neural activity is important because it tells us something critical about how people think about one another. Those who are close to us are considered mindful human beings, “like me.” As people become more and more different from us, or more distant from our immediate social networks, they become less and less likely to engage our MPFC (medial prefrontal cortex). When we don’t engage this region, others appear relatively mindless, something less than fully human” – that is the psychology of hate and how we deny human beings their humanity. Abu Eesa and those who support him have distanced themselves from other Muslims who are “not like them” and hence such Muslims, progressives and feminists, are considered “relatively mindless, something less than fully human.” They “don’t understand Abu Eeas’s superior British humour”, they “don’t know him enough”, they are “hateful and want to cause fitnah.”  Abu Eesa’s supporters and recently he himself reposted his Facebook Note from June 2013 in which he calls the ‘sisters’ “awesome.” The keyword is ‘sisters’ who “keep pushing it higher and higher and raising the standards in Deen and ihsan. They are busy running the homes, raising the next generation, doing the da’wah on the streets, educating themselves and others, and just being all round superstars.” And then he lists examples of the superstar sisters. They are not journalists or fashion designers or businesswomen or anthropologists or neuroscientists; they are either students of Islam or ones who sacrifice “a good and free life” to support their husbands. But what about the thousands of Muslim women who don’t want to sacrifice a good and free life for a man, who want to study subjects other than Islam, who don’t cover their heads, who believe that women and men are equal in worth, and who support everyone based on humanity? They are less likely to engage Abu Eesa’s MPFC and hence are the ones who are mocked and cursed. More dangerously, he has consciously or inadvertently taught his students to hate and be arrogant. His students use similar sexist rhetoric to scare Muslim men from supporting women. The mindset is that if Muslim men support women they are emasculated and so for a Muslim man to be manly, he must make fun of women.

Is Abu Eesa really a misogynist who hates women? I don’t think so. I don’t think he hates *all* women. But the words he uses (which are banned in my own home) certainly do show hatred towards women who don’t form part of his approved circle.

I have said before that I don’t believe that traditional Islam, Islam as it was at its inception, and Islam as practiced in orthodoxy today by the likes of Abu Eesa believes in the equality of men and women in society. I don’t think that was ever the purpose of the earliest movement, but (if you read that previous post you will see that) all free Muslim women within Islam have equal rights. This is why it came as a shock to many Muslim women, including me, to see an alleged ‘ustad’/imam/sheikh ridiculing and cursing Muslim women only because they are also feminists.

Abu Eesa is now asking the ummah to “stay united” and not let “secular” people cause fitnah. Muslims have been united even if we showed our disagreement with him. We feel united and part of one ummah which is why we are offended when one of us shows his blatant male chauvinism. And this is one of the reasons I feel it was necessary that Muslims showed their disapproval in large numbers.

I believe that Abu Eesa’s *jokes* were deliberate to warn the women in his ‘circle’ from ever joining the feminist movement – for if they did, he would mock them in a similar fashion. He didn’t make one passing comment, but a series of sexist remarks cloaked in the garb of British humour. He didn’t educate himself enough to learn that IWD is not only supported by feminists but is celebrated even by women who refrain from calling themselves feminists.  But that is beside the point. The point is that since Abu Eesa and other men like him have no role to play in IWD, they feel that it threatens their security as the “all-knowledgeable” custodians of Islam without whom no movement can prosper, and so he feels it is a day that must be mocked, shunned and ridiculed.

No, Yasir Qadi that is not British humour. I’m amazed that British people are not offended by this persistence that Abu Eesa has “dark British humour.” His humour is of its own kind. If Abu Eesa claims to be British in humour then he should also be British in apology and should have apologised unconditionally right away if he realised that he had “frowned and turned away.”

But he didn’t realise it and only made it worse when a woman displayed her anger:

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What AE said in response was not a *joke*, he is right. I also don’t believe he was condoning such behaviour. But I think he is not enlightened enough to understand the gravity of his words on public forums. It was worse than his regular *jokes.* It was an arrogant and angry outburst at the woman for which he claims he had to stoop at the intellectual level of his interlocutor (BTW, if you can access it, there’s a scholarly paper on how “challenging chauvinist attitudes often results in anxiety or other symptoms“). Again, Muslims have questioned if Abu Eesa’s response was in keeping with proper adab. While one may be able to pick and point to ahadith in which the Prophet cursed his interlocutors in the same tone as was used (Volume 8, Book 73, Number 57) one quick scan of the page will show that he never cursed fellow Muslims and Islamic history stands witness that he in fact pardoned and blessed those who harmed him in Taif. That is the Prophetic tradition. Abu Eesa on the other hand, apparently caused post-traumatic stress for not just one Muslim sister through his comments, but others too who didn’t realise they were suffering from PTSD. Like Omid Safi says, “Abu Eesa is simply, sadly, pathetically, and unprophetically, not funny.”

Abu Eesa’s students keep pleading that they know him better and that this is his ‘style.’ However, he didn’t contain his ‘style’ to his classroom; he brought it out because the women he hates are the ones outside his classroom. And the women he mocked, who are angered, are Muslim. Non-Muslim women don’t know Abu Eesa and don’t care about what he says because in their minds he’s just another Muslim man acting like just another stereotypical Muslim man mocking Muslim women, women from his ummah, women who look like him and behave like him. Only Abu Eesa doesn’t realise this. And then we complain why our men are stereotyped! This is also why Muslim women are angry with him. They feel betrayed by one of their own. They feel he’s belittling their cause – a cause that wants recognition of Muslim women as fully equal in worth as human beings, a cause asking men to be tolerant and respectful, a cause expecting men to be their allies, a cause they think Abu Eesa should be supporting as a self-professed follower of Quran and Sunnah.

Muslim women have always asked for their rights from the beginning of Islam. Islamic/Muslim Feminism as it is called today, is not bidah (an innovation). The very reason that men like Abu Eesa exist and think like he does is enough for feminism to exist in Islam of today. Abu Eesa makes IWD essential.

However, I noticed that Abu Eesa is making an effort to show women that he’s not a monster (and he isn’t!) – by re-posting an old Note in which he praises Muslim sisters, he shows that he respects at least the women in his circle.

The teacher just needs to learn to extend that circle.

List of reactions

Safiyyah Surtee’s status update – https://www.facebook.com/HappyMetis/posts/10152119493394317?comment_id=29247467&offset=0&total_comments=1&ref=notif&notif_t=share_comment

Abu Eesa’s anxious outburst – https://www.facebook.com/MuslimFeminism/photos/p.642522249146718/642522249146718/?type=1

The Shaykh and the F Word – http://www.theislamicmonthly.com/the-shaykh-and-the-f-word/

How Al Maghrib Blew It – http://mezba.blogspot.ca/2014/03/how-al-maghrib-blew-it.html

Muslim male allies – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/muslim-male-allies_n_4936848.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Wa’Mutasima! – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/splitthemoon/2014/03/wamutasima/

An Open Letter to Abu Eesa Niamatullah – https://www.facebook.com/notes/naheed-mustafa/an-open-letter-to-abu-eesa-niamatullah/10152239620844675

On Islam and Feminism – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sami-h-elmansoury/on-islam-and-feminism_b_4945430.html

Imam  Suhaib Webb – https://www.facebook.com/MuslimFeminism/posts/10152116857884317?stream_ref=10

Guest Post – Speak Good or Remain Silent: A Response to the Recent Remarks of a Muslim Teacher – http://commonplacer.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/guest-post-speak-good-or-remain-silent-a-response-to-the-recent-remarks-of-a-muslim-teacher/

Muslims for White Ribbon – https://www.facebook.com/MuslimsForWhiteRibbon/posts/826378900710570

Damsels in distress, the chivalrous caliph, and the misogynistic scholar: a modern fairy tale – http://sobersecondlook.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/damsels-in-distress-the-chivalrous-caliph-and-the-misogynistic-scholar-a-modern-fairy-tale/

Al Maghrib’s comment – http://almaghrib.org/blog/2014/03/13/on-recent-remarks-of-an-instructor/

Yasir Qadi’s thoughts on Abu Eesa – http://muslimmatters.org/2014/03/14/yasir-qadhi-thoughts-on-abu-eesa-gate/

What Abu Eesa’s comments did to my family this week – http://www.altmuslimah.com/b/gva/4921

We deserve better than sexist and racist “teachers”: Honoring real leaders, and a rejoinder to Abu Eesa – http://omidsafi.religionnews.com/2014/03/12/deserve-better-sexist-racist-teachers-honoring-real-leaders-rejoinder-abu-eesa/#sthash.RjizuGCZ.dpuf

Oh, Abu Eesa: an apology letter on your behalf – http://neederish.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/oh-abu-eesa-an-apology-letter-on-your-behalf/

Feminism, male privilege, and Abu Eesa – http://thrivalroom.com/feminism-male-privilege-and-abu-eesa/

Why men are in charge of women

Edited for ease of reading comprehensibility.

I was going through Quran and Woman by Amina Wadud for my margin notes when I had a revelation that I thought I’d put down here so I remember when I am writing my dissertation.

Amina Wadud devotes 17 pages to explain the verse 34 of Surah Nisa. In short, Wadud accepts that men do have a degree (darajah) of preference above women in terms of divorce only (2:228) although she doesn’t point out that women have rights similar to men and not the same.  She continues to call those rights equal (but they are similar, not equal). Therefore, she argues that the fadala (preference) in 4:34 does not mean that men have a higher darajah because that was only related to the verse on divorce.

Wadud asks if all men are preferred over all women. Her most significant argument is that ‘men are qawwamuna ‘ala women only if the following two conditions exist. The first condition is ‘preference’, and the other is that they support the women from their means. If either condition fails, then the man is not ‘qawwam’ over that woman.’ (Underlining mine).

Now here is when I had my revelation! The first point I noticed is that despite Wadud’s insistence that Quran addresses both men and women, the entire Surah Nisa addresses only men. In fact, this verse is so crucial to Muslim women, yet it is directly addressed only to men. It tells men that “good women” are obedient to God and that obedience is related to their being faithful in marriage by guarding their chastity like Allah would have liked them to guard.

Second, like Sayyid Qutb, whom Wadud has cited at length, I believe that the verse addresses a very narrow subject – that of a married relationship. Thus, all men are not in charge of all women, but I believe that only husbands are in charge of their wives. Let me explain.

I would have liked Wadud to mention the reason for the revelation of this verse. According to most classical sources, this verse was revealed when a woman came to the Prophet to complain that her husband had hit her (her face had turned green – the colour of her cloak, as mentioned by Aisha who said no kafir hits his wife like a Muslim man does).  The Prophet instantly replied, “get even with him!” Then he hesitated and asked the woman to wait for a revelation. That is when this verse was revealed and the Prophet explained that he had wanted equal treatment for the husband from the wife but Allah ordered otherwise.

I think this reason for revelation is crucial to understand two points: 1) the correct meaning of the imperative verb ‘daraba’ as beat, and 2) the narrow focus of the verse as related to matrimonial hierarchical relationship only.

Hence it becomes important to understand the meaning of the words fadala (preference) and wabimaanfaqoo min amwalihim (and because they spend on them from their maal – material resources).

Unlike Wadud I think that the fadala in 4:34 is related to the daraja of 2:228. Husbands are in charge (as opposed to several non-native Arabic translations, I believe qawwam doesn’t mean ‘maintainers’ in this verse but means ‘in charge’) of their wives because:

1)      They have been preferred (fadala) by Allah in terms of their higher (daraja) in the event of divorce whereby a husband can proclaim a divorce without arbitration but a wife can’t. Hence, the focus on matrimonial relationship is maintained.

2)      They spend on them from their material resources as Mahr.

These are the only two conditions whereby a husband becomes ‘preferred’ to a wife. And these two conditions will always remain in the Islamic institution.

I believe that the phrase ‘wabimaanfaqoo min amwalihim’ refers to the institution of Mahr. There are several marriages in which the real breadwinner is the wife (like the Prophet’s marriage to Khadeejah who was his employer and financially ‘in charge’). There are marriages in which it is the husband’s family that essentially supports the married couple. But even in those marriages the wives must be salihat and qanitat (righteous and obedient). Wadud argues that in such marriages a husband is not in charge of the wife, but I think that a husband is always in charge in every marriage because a Muslim marriage is invalid without Mahr.

Mahr, according to hadith (See Volume 7, Book 62, Number 81 in link), is given to gain access to a woman’s “private parts.” I believe that Mahr is the price for access to the monogamous rights of a woman. When a woman accepts Mahr she vows that she will only have intercourse with the man who has paid her the Mahr. On the contrary, a man does not receive Mahr because his right is polygynous and he doesn’t need to make a vow to have intercourse with only one woman. He can own the monogamous rights of up to four free women through Mahr and as many concubines as he can afford.

Thus, if a woman breaks the marriage contract by being sexually dishonest to her husband when in fact she had promised to be monogamous, she has in fact broken the sanctity of the vow sealed by Mahr. It is not only her sexual promiscuity but also breaking of the contract for which she must be punished or disciplined depending on the degree of her ‘crime.’

No matter how rich or poor a man is, he must under all circumstances pay the Mahr to his wife before he has sex with her. Thus, no matter how rich or poor a man is, he is in charge of the marriage bond because he pays the Mahr and he owns the right to divorce. We know from sirah that the Prophet did not consummate his marriage to Aisha until Abu Bakr had given him 12 ounces of gold which he then paid Aisha and consequently had sex with her. This is how important Mahr is in an Islamic marriage. We also know that when there was rumour of Aisha’s adultery, the Prophet first talked with her and then removed himself from her. This he did because he thought she had broken the sanctity of the marital bond. Then there is the example of Hind who was reminded by the Prophet when she took the oath of allegiance not to commit adultery and she retorted, “Does a free woman commit adultery?” It is noteworthy that, like Fatima Mersini points out, Islam ended matrilineal and polyandrous marriages, making only a free woman entitled to Mahr under patriarchal (Islamic) marriage laws whereby her husband owns full and sole rights to her sexuality.

In short, I believe that 4:34 is related only to a married relationship in which husbands are in charge in the relationship since Allah has preferred them by giving them the right to divorce without arbitration and because they pay Mahr to their wives. Righteous and obedient women are those who guard their chastity like Allah wants it guarded. Mahr promises men monogamous right to their wives’ sexuality and if a wife breaks that contract she is liable to punishment from both social and religious points of view. We all want loyalty and devotion in a relationship and this is all the verse ensures.

Mothers of the Believers

I finished reading another fascinating book – a volume with several essays by different writers on the theme “Female Stereotypes in Religious Traditions” (1995; Edited by R.Kloppenborg and W.J. Hanegraaff).

There are two chapters on Muslim Female Stereotypes. One is on Sufi women saints and the other is titled, “The Mothers of the Believers: Stereotypes of the Prophet Muhammad’s Wives” by Ghassan Ascha. I don’t know if Ascha is Muslim but his research is fairly extensive into the subject. His approach seems objective, but he discusses some issues that a common Muslim would not discuss.

His essay discusses all the wives of the Prophet, offering detailed references to them found in the Quran and in some hadith and how their lives have become stereotypes for Muslim women in every era. However, Ascha blames every era of using these examples to their advantage. For example, he writes that early Muslims used their examples and references from Quran about the Mothers of the Believers to incarcerate women; today those same women and the same references from the Quran are used by feminists to show that Islam promotes gender equality. The example he uses often is that of Aisha in the Battle of Camel: medieval Muslims used that instance to say women must stay indoors and can’t become leaders, and contemporary Muslims use it to show Aisha’s bravery, defiance and stubbornness.

I’m not going to discuss the whole essay but a few points I wanted to note (for my records and for interested readers) are as follows:

  • I didn’t know that when the Prophet’s wives were given a choice to stay with him or leave him (Quran 33:28-31), there was a wife who chose to leave him. It is never mentioned by scholars who maintain that all his wives chose to stay with him. Ascha cites the story of Al Amiriyyah on page 92 from Ibn Saad. (I knew the Prophet had more than the nine wives and two slaves usually mentioned who either died or were divorced and that there was a woman Al Amiriyyah in his household but I didn’t know she chose to leave him. Scholars claim she became insane after leaving the Prophet and died soon afterwards).
  • I also didn’t know that Aisha had initially “set people against Uthman” before his murder (page 93), after which, she fought in the Battle of Camel against Ali for not avenging Uthman’s murder.
  • Ascha writes that, “it is probable that this jealousy (of the Prophet) has been the main reason why the Prophet’s wives are called “Mothers of the Believers” in this verse (33:6). This nickname came to strengthen the prohibition against marrying them after Muhammad’s death: what man would dare to marry his own mother?

This reminded me of the verse prohibiting Muslim men from making their wives haraam to themselves (like in the Times of Ignorance) by telling them that they were like “the backs of their mothers.” It was common practice in pagan Arabia to abandon a wife by uttering the words “you are like my mother/sister” and Quran warned against this practice (33:4). Two verses later, the Prophet’s wives are categorically called the Mothers of all Muslims thus prohibiting any Muslim man from proposing marriage to them. The Prophet is said in the Quran to be “closer to the believers than their own selves” (33:6) – not Father of the Believers, but his wives are the Mothers. I never thought about that.

  • I found Ascha’s conclusion interesting:

Each period has its own Mothers of the Believers, according to the prevailing cultural and moral values and social norms. Thus, the Prophet’s wives do not derive their importance from their historical personalities, but from the continuous modifications retouching and modernizations which these personalities have undergone. They have been used throughout the centuries, as we have seen, in order to justify a great variety of attitudes about the Muslim woman. They are ideal, obedient, gentle, affectionate, content, pious, dwelling inside the marital house and veiled. They are also jealous, angry, quarrelling, conspirational, endowed with great kayd, sowing fitna, and their mind (aql) is sometimes imperfect. But they are also erudite, teachers, daring endowed with strong personalities, intelligent, political activists, fighters, even leaders in wars… and, of course, feminists.

  • Ascha doesn’t mention Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter! She is the main stereotype for Shia Muslims and should have been mentioned.

Construction of the homosexual ‘other’

I just finished reading an article titled ‘The construction of the homosexual ‘other’ by British Muslim heterosexuals’ by Asifa Siraj which appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Islam on 31 January 2009.

In Siraj’s own words, the article, “explores Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality and homosexuals … and examines the connection between participants’ attitudes towards homosexuality and their understanding of gender and gender roles… Data suggest that participants held negative attitudes towards homosexuals and this is the result of being religiously conservative in their attitudes towards homosexuality and gender roles.”

Siraj believes that Islam, in its original and pure form, does not explicitly condemn homosexuality in the Quran, but Hadith is another matter. An excerpt of most importance from the article is as follows (p.46):

Jamal (2001) in her analysis examined the moral terminology used in the 14 verses concerning homosexuality, and found that same sex-activities in the Qur’an are not considered as different from certain other illicit opposite-sex and non-sexual practices. What is equally important to the debate is that the Hadith which attributes the story of Lut exclusively to same-sex sexuality has shaped the interpretation of the Qur’an. Jamal (2001) further contends that although the sins committed by the people are frequent, the Qur’an does not declare that the people were destroyed for this particular sin. She concludes that the Qur’an does not provide a definitive position on the issue of homosexuality. Omid Safi, an American Muslim scholar, similarly comments that the issue of same-sex relations in the Qur’an is unclear and talk of homosexuality as an abomination is ambiguous because ‘what an abomination is remains open to interpretation’. Moreover, nowhere in the Qur’an does it state explicitly or implicitly that death is the appropriate punishment for being homosexual. Indeed, in order to implement punishment, guilt must first be established, and the Shari’ah requires incontestable evidence such as a confession or four reliable eyewitnesses verifying that they saw penetration (sodomy) take place (cf. Sofer 1992; Schild 1992). According to Vanita and Kidwai (2001) ‘the difficulty of finding eyewitnesses to confirm instances of penetration in effect removes private acts between consenting individuals from the realm of punishment’ (Vanita and Kidwai 2001: 111). Homosexuality is condemned when it is publicised and therefore transgresses Islamic morals (Schild 1992).

Despite all these arguments, Siraj’s study concludes that homosexuality is not, and perhaps will not be, accepted by Islam and Muslims.

As a feminist I feel this study is very important but I am personally not surprised at the results at all. I feel that contemporary Muslims must be educated about homosexuality and homosexuals. Homosexuality is as old as heterosexuality and it is not an “abomination” for which a man or a woman who is homosexual should be killed. This is why such studies are important to me as a feminist because I understand that Muslim women are more easily and more swiftly punished than Muslim men although comparatively it is easier for a Muslim man to have homosexual partners than a Muslim woman living in Muslim countries.

However, I don’t understand what progressive Muslims, Muslim feminists and educated, broad-minded scholars like Siraj want? Do we foresee a future where Muslim men and women and imams and scholars will embrace homosexuality as just as *normal* as heterosexuality (which is what Siraj believes Islam has created) and will welcome homosexuals into mainstream Muslim circles? If that is what we foresee, then I predict disappointment. While I personally don’t find homosexuals as ‘abominable’, I think it will take Muslims another four or five centuries to begin accepting homosexuals as equal human beings worthy of love, tolerance and respect.

What are your thoughts?

The legal consequences of the Hoor

I realised that I should have posted the two excerpts from Moghissi separately. There is connection between them but the flow was disconnected. Anyway, I am not particularly asking any questions here; merely explaining what I had meant to convey in the last post.

I understand that Muslims, especially women, have often not taken the concept of Huris very positively. Their concerns are more linked to jealousy. However, Moghissi, through Sabah, shows a more dangerous side of the belief in Huris.

In the comments to the last post, we saw a few different reactions. The most common reaction is that Huris are a metaphor. Certainly if you compare translations of the Quran they are seen as metaphorical from the beginning of the 20th century. Mohammad Asad believes they are the earthly spouses, ‘revirginated’ and raised as Hoor al ain. I have often compared the Hoor al ain with the metaphorical woman in the Zoroastrian text of Arda Viraf. Read this from Chapter 4 of Arda Viraf, verses 18-25:

18. And there stood before him his own religion and his own deeds, in the graceful form of a damsel, as a beautiful appearance, that is, grown up in virtue; (19) with prominent breasts, that is, her breasts swelled downward, which is charming to the heart and soul; (20) whose form was as brilliant, as the sight of it was the more well-pleasing, the observation of it more desirable. 21. And the soul of the pious asked that damsel (22) thus: ‘Who art thou? and what person art thou? than whom, in the world of the living, any damsel more elegant, and of more beautiful body than thine, was never seen by me.’ 23. To him replied she who was his own religion and his own deeds, (24) thus: ‘I am thy actions, O youth of good thoughts, of good words, of good deeds, of good religion. (25) It is on account of thy will and actions that I am as great and good and sweet-scented and triumphant and undistressed as appears to thee.

Now read these passages from the Quran:

They will have maidens with large, lovely black and white eyes. Like pearls preserved in their shells. As reward for their deeds. (56:22-24)

We shall unite them to maidens with big black and white lovely eyes. (44:54)

They will have with them loving wives with big black and white eyes. Who are as chaste as sheltered eggs. (37:48-49)

There will be well-disciplined, beautiful maidens. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? Pure ones confined to the pavilions. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? Whom no man or Jinn before them has touched; Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? They will be reclining on plain green and beautifully printed carpets. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? (55:70-77)

Reclining on thrones set in lines, and We will unite them to large-eyed beautiful ones. (52:20)

Gardens and vineyards, and maidens with swelling breasts, of equal age, and a cup that is overflowing (78:32-34)

Arda Viraf categorically calls this voluptuous “damsel”, a believer’s religion personified. This is not so clear in the Quran; in fact it has been accepted literally for fourteen centuries. Moreover, at least in Surah Rahman, Hoor Al Ain are a promise of Allah for the believer with the rhetorical question – “Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?”  To treat it as a mere metaphor or an illusion to allure men to do good deeds, (I can sympathize with the traditionalists), would be a deceptive promise.

However, why I quoted Moghissi is because she links the promise and belief in Huris with fundamentalism. She writes:

The promises made to the believer of the ‘good life’ awaiting him in Paradise, a space in which sexual indulgence with ‘eternally young’, ‘fair’ and ‘wide-eyed’ women seems to be man’s only activity, can, perhaps, expose what constituted ultimate happiness for the Muslim believer (Sabbah, 1988:91-7). Decoding Islamic Paradise, Fatna Sabah, suggests that the Paradisal female model, the huri, represents the ideal female and, at the same time, the ideal society for the Muslim believer. The huri ‘is created to be consumed as a sexual partner, her value comes from her physical beauty, which God gives as a gift to the believer’. She is passive and is stripped of the human dimension. ‘She has been created for one sole destiny: to be consumed by the male believer.’ Given the fact that religious instructions in Islamic societies are at the same time state legislation, this concept of sexuality has specific legal consequences for women.

While approving of sexual pleasure, the Islamic orthodox view develops, at the same time, a justification for sexual hierarchy, with women as sexual objects at the service of men.

I’m not concerned here with how Huris have been linked to jihad. I am more concerned with their effect on the lives of earthly women. They have become the ‘ideal female’ – passive and stripped of the human dimension. They teach women to be submissive, quiet, “well-disciplined”, like “well-guarded pearls” that no man has ever touched. Huris teach women to wait for the men, eagerly reclining on cushions. They teach women to desire youthfulness, full figures and big black eyes.  This concept of sexuality also has effects on ‘legal consequences for women’ by creating a ‘sexual hierarchy, with women as sexual objects at the service of men.’

Even if Huris are only metaphorical (which I am certain they are), their effects on human females are very real and so we have books like The Ideal Muslimah (some poignant excerpts here) teaching women to be obedient, pleasing, respectful, pleasing, cheerful, secretive, obliging, eager, forgiving, and one who tries to look good.

The Huri is creating the need for Muslim feminism.

The power of a kasrah

Since we were discussing feminist theology in the previous post I thought I’d share something with you all and see what you think about it.

Here is the article

Ṭabarī remains the scholar everyone loves to quote and invoke. Ṭabarī’s tafsīr is considered one of the greats, and academic giants like al-Qurṭubī (d. 1272) relied on this text as a basis for their own works. But Ṭabarī borrowed a lot from the writers who came before him, in particular an expert on grammar named Abū Zakaria Yaḥyā ibn Ziyād al-Farrā’ (d. 826). So, although you assumed I was going to launch into a snide diatribe about the evils of beauty pageants, I really want to discuss Arabic grammar.

Sisters! Know this: In fighting for intellectual space within our religion, we cannot pay enough attention to grammar. Take it as an axiom, embroider it on a pillow, or tattoo it on a discreetly-covered limb: The believer with the best grammar wins. I’m talking about winning liberation from erroneous and oppressive interpretations, winning room to breathe, think and soar.

Scholars began to pore over the language of the Qur’ān when it became evident that there were differences of opinion emerging from attempts to understand the text. Early on, the Qur’ānic text was written with only a vague consonantal outline. Vowels and dots were inserted based on the opinions of scholars. Differences in vowels and differences in where dots were placed on or under letters, meant differences in meaning. The Arabic script that we encounter when we open the Qur’ān today was not hammered out until grammarians in the late-9th century defined a precise system of marks – fatḥahs, kasrahs and dammahs – to indicate the different vowel sounds .

An eminent expert in the early variant readings of the Qur’ān was the sister of the scholar, Muḥammad ibn Sīrīn (d. 728), Ḥafṣa. Her brother would often refer his intellectual peers to her as the definitive voice on the subject of variant readings. What would Ḥafṣa bint Sīrīn say if she learned that all other readings had been forgotten and Muslims have been left with just one? What would she have to say about our Qur’ān, “preserved perfectly,” in the form which sits in the top shelves of our mosques and homes, the source of many well-intentioned sermons and policies by earnest, God-fearing men? In this version, there is a verse that has been used as a weapon against our sisters in places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Houston and West Philly.

Wa qarna fī buyūtikunna wa lā tatabarrajna tabarruj al-jāhilīyah al-ūlā… (33:33).

Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates: “And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former times of ignorance…”

The rest of the verse goes on to command women to pray, give charity, obey God and the Messenger, and so forth. These commands are followed by “Truly the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the believing men and the believing women…” (33:35). This verse stands as an awesome affirmation of our spiritual equality with men. Why then is it preceded by a verse that instructs us to “Stay home”?

Mr. Sunnī Universe (Ṭabarī) thinks that’s bunk, and so does Mr. Grammar (al-Farrā’) before him. Both believed that this verse does not say, “Stay home” but instead translates into, “Behave withdignity in your homes.”

Now for the grammar – with which you have to be armed, because if we can’t explain it like these guys did, no one will listen to us. For most men, 33:33 has nullified 33:35 before their eyes can even travel down the page.

At the heart of the debate is the root word waqara, which means to be dignified. It is a “weak” verb in Arabic, which means that it drops its first radical (i.e., the letter waw here in the command form). Here’s how al-Farrā‘ explains it:

’Wa-qirna fī buyūtikunna’ comes from waqār, dignity. You say for men, ‘he has behaved with dignity within his home’ or ‘qad waqara fī manzilihi’.”

Sisters! “Stay home” (qarna), the word we find in our reading of the Qur’ān, is not the word that some of the most learned and renowned early experts believed was correct (“be dignified” – qirna). Al-Farrā’ does not even suggest that his interpretation is a variant. It is the BASIS from which others depart.

He goes on to address the alternate reading:

“ʿĀṣim and the Medinans have read it with a fatḥah. This is not from waqār (dignity). We see that they intend [its meaning to be]: ‘And stay in your homes,’ (w-a-qrarna fī buyūtikunna), so they have dropped the [first] ‘rāʾ’, and its fatḥah has transferred to the ‘qāf.’

The root here is from qarr, (to remain, to be sedentary, to settle). Even if the root word were qarr, al-Farrā’ shows us what the command form would look like: aqrarna, not qarna. In other words, if you want to use the root verb which means to remain sedentary, it takes a lot of dodgy grammatical wiggling to get it to match the consonantal outline found in the early Qur’āns.

Who is the one espousing this iffy approach – who is this ʿĀṣim? He is one of the famous “Seven Readers” of the Qur’ān from the eighth century. Considered a “Follower” (one of the pious first generation which followed on the heels of the Companions), he headed the renowned school of Qur’ānic study in Kufa, Iraq, and died around 745. The majority of our Qur’āns are, according to his reading, via his pupil named Ḥafṣ. Ḥafṣ died around 805, some 70 years after his teacher.

In the early 10th century, a fellow named Ibn Mujāhid used the agreed upon script system to limit the ever-expanding number of readings of the Qur’ānic text to just the seven from the “Seven Readers.” By rejecting all other readings, even those of other famous scholars (such as ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd and ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib), Ibn Mujāhid hoped to curtail bickering over what this or that meant based on how it was read. ‘Āṣim was one of the lucky Seven, and his is the version most popular today.

But the question remains: if, in the instance of 33:33, ‘Āṣim’s reading was deemed grammatically incorrect by early experts, why can’t we press their same point here and now?

Consider this: one little word, voweled differently from the way these early experts suggested, has made countless women prisoners of their homes… One little kasrah.

from here.

What do you think?