"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 12

Last night was very pleasant so I sat out on the porch reading Sura 12-- Yusuf. Now this book about Joseph was what I had in mind when I read Jonah. You'll recall from my post the other day how surprised I was about Jonah's book in the Quran since it shared very little about the man unlike the Bible's version. However this sura was different and I found it highly enjoyable to read the details of Joseph's life from an Islamic point of view. I am very familiar with the story of Joseph as told in Genesis as it is one we are taught often in church and Sunday school. It seems to be a favorite story full of action, life lessons, "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" kind of things. Also it's a story of forgiveness. Just a wonderful person to read about and although the Bible doesn't have a book of Joseph, his story is told starting in Genesis 37. Go ahead and give it a read and compare for yourself how and where the Bible's and Quran's versions are similar and different. I think you will find it as enjoyable as I did.

In the Bible it is told that Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob (Israel). While not the oldest of his twelve sons, Joseph was the older of the two boys born to Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. Perhaps this was the reason for Israel's favoritism of Joseph. For whatever reason (oh, and I just looked. The Bible says Joseph was the son of Israel's old age), Joseph was favored and even given a special coat with many colors. His older brothers, no doubt, seethed with envy. Imagine one day when little brother Joe shows up with a story of dreams he had where symbolically his family members bowed down to him! So cute to hear the little chap saying such things, right? Heh...not on your life! Even Joseph's father found it laughable and rebuked him, "Indeed, Child, shall I bow to you one day?" (paraphrased by me from Gen. 37:10).

I don't want to mix the stories too much although in what I've shared thus far, I think the two books were very similar. The plotting for Joseph's removal from the family was a bit different, but not terribly much. I rather enjoyed the Quranic version of The Older Sons speaking with their father about taking Joseph out to play and Israel's concern that Joseph would be devoured by a wolf. The Older Sons' assurance that this wouldn't happen on their watch and then, sadly, the fact that it "did." Well, we know it didn't since Joseph was actually stuck in a well at this point. In the Bible, Joseph's father actually instructed Joseph to visit his brothers because Israel wanted word that they were doing all right (see Gen. 37:12-14). It was as they saw Joseph approaching from afar that The Older Sons plotted to get rid of him. They carried out their scheme and as is similar in both accounts, they went back to their father with the bad news. In the Quranic version Israel seemed to know of their plot, whereas in the Biblical version he grieved as a father who truly believed his precious son was lost in this life.

See what I mean?

Quranic version:

18. They showed him the shirt with false blood on it. (Their father) said: "It is not so; you have made up the story. Yet endurance is best. I seek the help of God alone for what you impute."

Biblical version:

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him.

In both books Joseph ends up in an Egyptian's household - we refer to him as Potiphar, an official of Pharoah. You can read the Biblical account in Genesis 39 if you wish. Joseph was a great worker and God blessed him so much that Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household. The downside is that Joseph was a handsome young man and Mrs. Potiphar lusted after him. (Unbelievably to some perhaps, yes, women can and do lust after men sometimes!)

So this happens (Bible):

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

And you know that old saying about "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"? Well, it's true. And Mrs. Potiphar was angry that this servant had refused her! Indeed he ran away from her advances. (Great lesson here about fleeing from youthful lusts and not trying to stick around to fight them. You will often lose so don't fight -- flee, scram, leave, get outta Dodge, man!)

The two versions differ a bit in that the Quran finds Joseph innocent while the Bible finds Joseph guilty in Potiphar's eyes. In Potiphar's eyes being the key phrase as the reader knows Joseph is innocent of any wrongdoing and is being falsely accused and imprisoned.

The Quran has a bit about a banquet that Potiphar's wife held after women of the community gossiped about her lust for her servant boy. She wanted to prove to them how lovely this man was so she invited them to a dinner, gave them knives and then called out for Joseph to appear before them. I admit I laughed so hard when I read this. I am one who likes visualizing things and this was just too cute of an image in my mind's eye. I read it to my husband and he laughed as well.

30. In the city the women gossiped: "The minister's wife longs after her page. He has captured her heart. We think she is in clear error." 31. When she heard their slanderings, she sent for them and prepared a banquet, and gave each of them a knife (for paring fruit), and called (to Joseph): "Come out before them." When they saw him, the women were so wonderstruck they cut their hands, and exclaimed: "O Lord preserve us! He is no mortal but an honourable angel."

It just makes me laugh to think of the Egyptian Ladies' Society meeting at Mrs. Potiphar's house, eating a wonderful meal, cutting fruit and then Wonder Boy walks in causing them to cut their hands and exclaim at his beauty. Reminds me of women at country music concerts when Tim McGraw comes on stage. :)

I know this post is different than my previous ones on the Quran. I suppose since the story of Joseph is so familiar to me, I could read this sura more quickly and enjoy seeing how Joseph's account was relayed to Muhammad. A few things to add from the Quran.

3. Through the revelation of this Qur'an We narrate the best of histories of which you were unaware before.

I agree that Joseph's story is one of the best to be retold, however, I am not so sure it was unaware unless this means among the Arabs. It seems the Jews knew of it for years before.

28. When the husband saw the shirt torn at the back, he said: "Surely this is a woman's ruse, and the wiles of women are great. 29. Ignore this affair, O Joseph; and you, O woman, ask forgiveness for your sin, for you were surely errant."

This is part of the Mrs. Potiphar story where I mentioned the Quran's version declaring Joseph's innocence in Potiphar's eyes. I found Potiphar's words curious and wondered if this was part of the reasoning of people who claim women should be covered and women are the problem in leading men astray. Let me not claim women cannot be seductive. I know many are and many try to be. However, should this mean all women are to be treated in a certain way? Honestly, if I were a man and was told I could not be trusted around pretty women or half-naked women because I couldn't control my lust, I would feel offended and reduced to the status of one who cannot think and control himself when tempted. I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women. You cannot be both superior to women in religion and intellect and at the same time be reduced to - often by fellow men's opinions -- a mindless sexual being who cannot cannot cannot control his sexual urges thus women must cover! I am offended for you men out there, really!

99. When they went back to Joseph he gave his father and mother a place of honour, and said: "Enter Egypt in peace by the will of God." 100. He seated his parents by his side on the throne; and they fell down before him in homage. "O my father," said Joseph, "this is the meaning of my earlier dream. My Lord has made it come true. He was gracious in getting me out of the prison, and bringing you out of the desert to me after the discord created by Satan between me and my brothers, for my Lord is gracious to whomsoever He please. He is indeed all-knowing and all-wise.

I'm curious which of Israel's wives was considered Joseph's parent here since I'm pretty sure Joseph's mom, Rachel, died after giving birth to the baby of the Twelve Sons, Benjamin. Oh, yes, I found it in Genesis 35:16-19.

101. O my Lord, you have given me dominion and taught me the interpretation of dreams; O Creator of the heavens and the earth, You alone are my saviour in this world and the world to come; let me die submitting to You, and place me among the upright."

I love this declaration by Joseph that God is his Savior in the present world and the world to come! (I did a post about this from the OT earlier this year, in fact.)

I won't go into much of the rest of the story as many of the details are the same. I greatly enjoyed this sura. Joseph's story is one that shows when injustice is done to us, we should not panic. We should not seek to rectify things only in our own power. I love the Bible's version at the end when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and they were frightened. They knew this powerful leader in Egypt - the brother they had sold into slavery - could have them killed. However Joseph lovingly forgave them and declared as a lesson to us even now:

19 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50).

Although humans may have evil intentions, don't fret. If God is in control as many of us believe, even that which men intended for harm can accomplish something good. With God on our sides, we never truly have to worry.

Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback. I know I'm cranking out these posts rather quickly and they are long, but I deeply appreciate all who have been reading and adding to the discussion. Please keep your thoughts coming as time and inclination allow. :)

24 comments:

Durriyyah said...

I have a couple tabs open with intention to respond to some of your other posts, but this one is shorter in response, so I'll start with this. :)

First, yes, it is a beautiful surah, and you'll read more about Joseph as you continue reading. I forgot that the ending is not in that surah, but I'm fairly certain it is in the Qur'an (instead of hadith), so you will cross it in due time. I find it interesting the small differences, but large similarities the Biblical and Qur'an accounts are on certain humans. It shows continuity of the message, to me.

12:28 - I'm quite surprised at your response to this verse, honestly. I wish I could say this in person, as I don't mean it in any rude way, but the Qur'an makes it clear that she is judged as the guilty based on the back of the shirt being torn instead of the front. I don't know any Muslim who looks at these verses as one in which a woman needs to cover (after all, she lusted after HIM, so if anything, it would show men need to cover more).

I've heard many times people saying "Are men not trusted around women? Do they not have self control?" and this is an exaggeration of the Islamic standpoint. We are not saying that men can not control themselves. The Qur'an does not say that. Also, we will not find anywhere in the Qur'an that men are superior to women in intellect and religion. The position is that women and men are equal in the sight of God, especially in terms of their religious status. As God tells us in the Qur'an, both man and woman were created from a single soul.

"I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women" - Who said this?

We must be careful to read scripture (whether we believe it to be true or not) in context of itself, and not the surrounding social, economic, and political environment we find ourselves in. It would be unfair of me to read the Bible and insert the actions of the KKK into verses that have a slight leaning of racial superiority. A more recent example... I can not take verses from the Bible, such as Galations 3:10, and state this is why "Christians" (I do this because I don't want to label all that name themselves Christians) believe casual sex is okay.

We have to ask ourselves, "What does the text -actually- say?" if that does not fit into what people are doing, then we can not bend it to make it fit so we can find the reason "why" people claiming a religion do what they do.

Hmph, that wasn't short at all. I hope my words are not too abrupt. I just wanted to be clear.

Peace and blessings!

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, I'm glad you commented. I hope you can catch up and write about some of the other posts you missed. I like reading your point of view. I will respond to you tomorrow, Lord willing. Thanks much for taking time to write! Please speak freely. You are passionate about your beliefs so I understand you are not being unkind. :)

Amber said...

'In the Quranic version Israel seemed to know of their plot, whereas in the Biblical version he grieved as a father who truly believed his precious son was lost in this life.'

I've never understood why, if he knew that they were lying, he didn't at least send out a search party for Joseph. It'd make sense, and be the thing a concerned parent would do.

I'm not sure if you got this from the verses, or if maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but the only reason that Potiphar declared Joseph innocent that first time, and rebuked his wife was because the shirt was torn from the back. His reasoning was that if Joseph had really been trying to rape her and she had fought back, the shirt would have been ripped in the front. However, if she had tried to seduce him, and he had fled, the shirt would be ripped in the back, from her grabbing him. I suspect that this was not the first time Mrs. Potiphar abused her position with the servants...

*snort**rolls eyes* The cutting their hands thing is just... ridiculous. I mean, I'm sure it's just a literary device, so the reader understands just what an Adonis Joseph was, but the *image*. I laugh every time I read it.

'"I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women" - Who said this?'

Ummm...pretty much every authority in the 'Muslim' countries of the world? Though, to be fair to them, Mohammed did say that women were deficient first:

Bukhari 6: 301:

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."'


But it's true that's just a hadith, and not in the Qur'an. However it is considered an authentic hadith. You can argue that they're misinterpreting it, but they'll argue back that you are. And since they're sheikhs and imams...well. They have more practical power in these matters, right or wrong.

Amber said...

Oooh...I forgot. About the discrepancies in the stories between the Bible and the Qur'an. It strikes me as the sort of embellishments that one would get when stories are told over and over again around a campfire. I mean, it's a good story, Joseph being sold into slavery, being thrown into prison, and then being elevated to a position so high in the land, but as it gets told, story tellers always want to add their own twist, their own flair. '*How* handsome was Joseph?! Let me tell you what the women of Egypt did when they saw him...'

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, glad to see your comments. I noticed them last night, but was too tired to reply much to comments at that point. :)

Yes, I agree this was a lovely sura. I had a lot of fun reading it and writing this post.

The Quran may make both men and women to be equal, but some "scholars" have differing opinions. Those were the ones I railed against. :) What I found curious was Potiphar's words about the "wiles of women" being great. I felt he was including all women as being wily. Couple that with all that I've read from books, from Muslims online and so forth, I drew a conclusion (perhaps wrongly) that maybe this was why women were often blamed when men lusted and sinned. (How often have a read the phrase "creating fitnah" in the context of women!) It seems often I read if a man sins, he is forgiven and the women is blamed for leading him astray. I think this is unfair to both women *and* men. It makes men out to be mindless robots who cannot control themselves and that was why I said you cannot have it both ways. Men *cannot* be both mindless sexual robots who are ready to strip down naked when a woman comes into a room *and* at the same time more superior to women in intellect and religion. I find it offensive to reduce men to this status. You cannot be both "holier" than women (superior in religion) and your testimony be worth more (thus you are what? not as likely to get tangled on the details because of your mental acuteness) and *at the same time* be excused for acting stupidly when a woman walks in front of you.

I've seen many people discuss the Islamic references to women's inferiority to men. Hopefully I'm wrong about that, but they seem pretty authentic. I don't know.

Yes, I agree we need to read things in context. Good point. I admit my opinion often "flavors" my comments on these suras. I've just read too much the last 2.5 years and it's hard to not recall those things while reading and writing. I tend to look into the Quran for ways people could get these interpretations and justify their unjustness towards women in this case.

Thanks for your good comment!

Susanne said...

Amber, yesssssssssssssssss!! I was like, "If you know they are lying demand that they tell you the truth!" Didn't fathers have a LOT of power over their children back in those days? If you know they are lying, go find the boy! I thought the same thing and found it so strange that he just accepted it as if God would maybe one day bring Joseph back. I'd be refusing to feed those Older Sons until they told me where my boy was! It makes NO logical sense to me so maybe I read it incorrectly???

Yes, I found the how-the-shirt-was-torn proof to be interesting and I did catch that. Sorry I didn't make it clearer. I thought that was pretty clever. The reason for the verse I quoted was to show how peculiar I found Potiphar's words as it seemed to verify how wily all women are. OK, maybe we are.*evil grin* I know we can seduce and charm and reduce men to morons, however, as I said to Durriyyah, I don't think ALL men use this (women are just too dang wily!) as an excuse for bad behavior. Just as we talked about recently concerning the whole "devil made me do it" excuse, men can't claim "she made me do it." Adam tried that and God didn't really buy it, IMO. Men can choose to say "no." Sorry, I think I am on a tangent now. Thanks for bringing up the how-the-shirt-was-torn proof. So when Joseph DID go to prison it was more of a deliverance from lustful feelings that were rising when those women declared him "no mere mortal." It wasn't for doing wrong or being falsely accused even (as the biblical account), but as a God-ordained escape so he wouldn't sexually sin. What do you think?

"*snort**rolls eyes* The cutting their hands thing is just... ridiculous. I mean, I'm sure it's just a literary device, so the reader understands just what an Adonis Joseph was, but the *image*. I laugh every time I read it."

Yes, good point. Well, I visualized it happening and laughed so hard a gun fired and it started to rain. Seriously! I discussed this sura with Samer before writing this post and I read that part from the Quran that I have. He didn't understand why I found it so funny since it was familiar to him. I told him that I live in a culture where women are NOT shy about declaring how good-looking or "hot!" a man is. It's not like his family and friends where women might *think* something similar, but likely wouldn't express it. I said it was like a woman here seeing [insert hottie of your choice] and exclaiming, "Oh my word [or exclamation of your choice]! That guy is smokin' hot!" It just amused me sooooooo much to read this reaction to Joseph's handsomeness! It sounds so 21st century American. :-)

"story tellers always want to add their own twist, their own flair. '*How* handsome was Joseph?! Let me tell you what the women of Egypt did when they saw him...'"

Haaaa! So true! :) Sounds like a person I met a few years back who liked to comment on every male who came into the McDonald's where we talked as the kids played.

Thank you for providing the hadith for that question Durriyyah had. I knew I'd read it enough that most felt it was a well-known given among many Islamic clerics/scholars.

Loved your comment. Thanks much for taking time to share your thoughts!

Suroor said...

What a wonderful comparative post! Loved it. Thank you, Susie!

Just one thing: you wrote,

"I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women."

From the Quran it is clear that Potiphar's wife was wrong and Potiphar tells her just that. She seduced Joseph and hence the latter was not punished and left blame-free.

Regarding women being deficient in religion and intellect, that is not in the Quran. It is a sahih (verified) hadith. It is true that Prophet used two laws, one from the Quran (that two women witnesses equal one man witness) and one from general Islamic practice (that women can't pray during period) to say that women deficient in religion (as they pray less than men) and intellect (2:1 witness), but those words are not in the Quran.

Thanks for the post; I really enjoyed reading your views.

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for your comment! I guess I wasn't clear enough in my post about Joseph's innocence even in Potiphar's eyes according to the Quran. (He was guilty in the same eyes in the Bible's version.)

I can see how my saying this:

"I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women."

was confusing. Sorry for that. I wasn't thinking about Joseph's story so much as people **since then** who have said "women are wily" (or as Potiphar said, "the wiles of women are great") and used that as an excuse for men when they sexually sin.

We were posting at the same time so maybe you can read what I wrote Amber above. NOT that it makes it much clearer, I suppose. :)

Thanks for sharing how Muhammad justified his comment about women from the Quran. So I guess the short answer for Durriyyah would be that Muhammad said that and many others have preached it and taught it since.

Thanks again for your comment!

Durriyyah said...

Just a note from the Answers section on Sunnipath, as they explain it better than I.

"I would caution against interpreting this hadith at face value for the simple reason that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was famous for his kind and equitable treatment of women. Therefore, for him to make a blanket statement about women's supposed inferiority requires some amount of interpretive flexibility on our part. For those who would accuse us of being apologists for the hadith, I would respond that every religious tradition has texts which appear to privilege men over women. The challenge for believers in modern times is to discover new interpretive possibilities for these texts.

What I find especially fascinating about this hadith is what emerges when you read between the lines. Was the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, alluding to a certain group of women? Could this have been a wake-up call for women who were slacking in their deen?

I don't believe that we can take one hadith and jump to the conclusion that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was saying that women are created inferior.

In fact, when you examine the overall framework governing gender issues in both the Qur'an and Hadith, the core idea that emerges is that males and females share the same essence.

The Qur'an says,

"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you." (An-Nisa, 4:1)

And

"And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another..." (Aal Imran, 3:195)

However, the Qur'an clearly indicates that men and women are distinct and unique:

"...and the male is not as the female..." (Aal Imran, 3:36)

When I read hadiths that seem to imply some intrinsic distinction between men and women, I marvel at the Prophet's profound understanding of human nature. Scientific research is discovering more and more that women and men are really not the same. There are inherent biological and emotional differences which should be accounted for. In the field of medicine, for example, experts are discovering the need for gender-specific medicine that addresses women's unique health concerns. As one scientist said, women are not little men!

Back to the issue of hadith, it's important to weigh "problematic" hadith against others which speak more favorably of women. In many hadith, including the above, which is rigorously authenticated, the Prophet, peace be upon him, expressed deep concern for the women of his community.

For example, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was reported to have said,

"Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means."


(emphasis added is my own)

Durriyyah said...

cont...


I'm aware of this hadith, and my husband asked me about it when he was learning about Islam (the two women for one man). I don't like to admit, but I know it is true in most cases... women are just more emotional than men and our memory of events can be littered with emotion. This can be a positive thing, but in terms of legal, eye witness accounts... we need to be careful.

I worked as a supervisor for 9 years before getting laid off last year (Praise be to God, I get to stay home now! It was such a blessing for our family) and I've worked with men and women in writing reviews. Writing a review with another woman takes more work because we both have to put our emotions to the side and look at the facts of the matter. It literally would take about an hour longer (25% more time) to complete a review when I was writing it with another woman.

Also, from this hadith... women are not responsible for praying when they are on their menses, so to understand it as a deficiency of religion would be incorrect.

This is a time where I wish I knew Arabic so I could read what it actually says and not a translator's chosen word. I'm working on that though! :)

Suroor said...

"o I guess the short answer for Durriyyah would be that Muhammad said that and many others have preached it and taught it since."

Well, in your case since you never claimed to believe that Quran is God's word, then whether it is in the Quran or the hadith to you both would be Muhammad's words. In that case you were not wrong! :D LOL!

Amber said...

Durriyyah,

'I don't like to admit, but I know it is true in most cases... women are just more emotional than men and our memory of events can be littered with emotion.'

This may be true from your experience, but it's not true from mine. Memory is an individual trait. As is emotionality. That's why it is best to have more than one witness (of any gender), if one must rely on witnesses. It's also why eye witness testimony (with witnesses of any gender or race) is notoriously unreliable. You can put ten people in a room, have an impression making even occur, and all ten will have different versions of it. The truth lies somewhere between all of them. (Assuming that none of them are out and out delusional...)

'Also, from this hadith... women are not responsible for praying when they are on their menses, so to understand it as a deficiency of religion would be incorrect.'

The hadith flat out says 'this is the deficiency in her religion'. An argument could be made for translation issues, except that no one that I have ever spoken with about this (and many of them speak and read Arabic) has said that this is a faulty translation. They will explain the hadith in other ways, but never that the translation is bad.

Now, as the article pointed out, Mohammed could have been speaking to a specific group of women. It's possible. It's even likely, reading the hadith. But that is not how it's applied, because whatever Mohammed did or said is considered applicable universally by the vast majority of Muslims. So even though he may have been dealing with a particular situation, it has been taken, for centuries, to be universal.

Durriyyah said...

"Now, as the article pointed out, Mohammed could have been speaking to a specific group of women. It's possible. It's even likely, reading the hadith. But that is not how it's applied, because whatever Mohammed did or said is considered applicable universally by the vast majority of Muslims. So even though he may have been dealing with a particular situation, it has been taken, for centuries, to be universal."

As far as I'm aware, the opposite is true, especially given scholarly opinion. What people take for themselves given their own desires (wanting control over women in this case) is another story, and is in any religion. I guess each of our experiences shapes our opinions, because the "vast majority" of Muslims I'm aware of take each hadith and Qur'an verse in a situational context and are very careful to keep it as such.

Amber said...

Durriyyah,

I suppose I should have added 'in my experience' in there, yes?

All we have to go on is our individual pool of knowledge, and we each arrive at that through different avenues. In my experience, the opposite of what you say is true. However, I do not doubt that there are scholars out there who say differently. And who's to say which interpretation is correct?

'I guess each of our experiences shapes our opinions'

Very true. Not only do our experiences shape our opinions, but they actually shape our worlds.

I don't believe that the Qur'an, or ahadith can actually be understood outside of their historical context. But, too many of the Muslims that I have encountered want to take *everything* that happened in Mohammed's life and apply it for all time, ignoring the situations in which the actions took place.

Suroor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suroor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suroor said...

(I don’t know where my comment went! Jinn!! Must be a male Jinn ;) Anyway, so I’m posting this again. If it landed somewhere else, Susie please delete it from there)

I’m not interested in proving that women are NOT stupid. I won’t use words said 1400 years ago and say the translation is bad, or it is out of context and use that to justify my gender. I speak Arabic and I have been with Arabic speakers who discuss this hadith and we don’t claim there is a bad translation because we are not translating. This excuse is only used by non-Arabic speakers.

Something which actually interest me and baffles me is that verse 2:281-282 (requirement for two women witnesses) and 2:278 and 5:4 are believed to be the last verses revealed just nine days before Muhammad’s death (in 11 AH).

A few people claim this hadith is dated at the time of the Farewell Pilgrimage (4 months before Prophet’s death); however, most people date it to have happened just after Uhud when much material and mortal loss was suffered by the Muslims and the Prophet’s main aim through this hadith was to scare women to give zakat and sadaqah because as soon as he said these words women ripped off their earrings and bangles and gave them to Muhammad. The hadith also begins with asking women to fear Hell and give alms. It is also believed he said this to a group of feisty Ansar women (the women of Medina) who were believed by the Muhajareen (the Meccans) to be rude, overpowering their men and loud-mouthed (wonder why because ansar men divorced their extra wives so muhajir men could marry them. I don’t see that as being feisty!). And so the Prophet’s aim was to make them humble. Most Muslims believe it happened the Eid after Uhud. That would be dated around 3AH!

In any case the words of Abu Said Al Khudri were that the Prophet said it “after Eid al Adha or Eid al Fitr”. This proves that it wasn’t after the Farewell Pilgrimage because he couldn’t have *forgotten* that! It was after some other Eid which was definitely before the Farewell Pilgrimage.

Let’s argue and say the verse was NOT the last one to be revealed nine days before Prophet’s death (in Rabi Al Awal, 11AH) but was one of the last so let’s say it was revealed a month before he died. There is still a difference of 3-4 months between the hadith (Zilhajj 10 AH ) if we must argue that he said it after the Farewell Pilgrimage and the verse. Otherwise there is a difference of seven years according to the dates provided by most scholars. So it seems the Prophet said all that BEFORE the verse was revealed.

It sort of reflects that in pagan Arabia two women were required as witnesses as opposed to one man because this was already being practiced BEFORE this verse was revealed and the practice received divine sanction.

In such a case it doesn’t matter whether he said it in jest or seriously. It also doesn’t matter whether this hadith is wrongly translated like many claim (it isn’t; I have read it in Arabic). In any case the argument is straight-forward.

We can well argue that dates are all estimates. That is fine and proves that nothing is absolute. If people can get the dates wrong, they can get the words wrong too, especially since Abu Said Al-Khudri was believed to be only 9-13 years old when he heard Muhammad say this and narrated it! (Another proof it was after Uhud because he was “too young” {under 15 years of age} to fight in Uhud).

Now who did this Math and review of history?

A woman.

And in 1400 years no more intelligent and more religious MAN ever mentioned it.

Sarah said...

Got some catching up to do here... you are fairly flying through this!

I enjoyed Sura Yusuf, it makes a change to read a continuous story for once.

kat said...

"Something that actually interests and baffles me is that verse 2:281-282 (requirement for two women witnesses) "
--read the verse carefully---this only pertains to bussiness(commercial) transactions--not to criminal justice (where women and men witness are equal)

As the Quran explains, the reason 2 women witness are asked for is so that "one may correct the other"---(in case of badgering of the witness)it is for safeguarding a women's reputation when witnessing to a commercial transaction---because an extra witness will not adversely effect justice in such cases. As Ziauddin Sardar of the Guardian Post pointed out, a women can transact a bussiness or write a contract without a "helper"---it is only in the case of standing as a witness that this extra priviledge is provided.

If some Muslim Male scholars deliberately distort the egalitarian message of the Quran for their own egoic desires, it is upto the women of the society to correct it.

Suroor said...

Kat, please read the comment properly. I said I'm not going into that argument. Been there done that.

You are telling me that the oranges are not sour when I was talking about when they were bought. Two different things.

Sarira said...

OKay guys, I don't have time to comment on this post (yet or the other posts that I left off with 'continued,', lol didn't finish) but I see the discussion has completely turned to a different topic.

I'll just address the 2 women being witnesses thing as this is a misunderstanding very common in the Arabic and Islamic world that needs to be addressed and erased as soon as possible.

People always say that two female witnesses are always needed, but this isn't true. In some cases, in fact, it is ONLY a woman's testimonial that is accepted- in women's fiqh, etc. But anyways, there are about five verses in the Qur’an that mention witnesses, without specifying male or female. There is only one verse in the Qur’an, that says two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. This verse is Surah Baqarah, chapter 2 verse 282. This is the longest verse in the Qur’an and deals with financial transactions.
But in all other cases, if a woman sees a crime, she can testify just like a man. (Let's say, the crime is zina- 4 women can be witnesses just as 4 men).

If you watch Dr. Tariq Suwaidan and Dr.3sam they have both discussed this issue (using hadiths, Qur'an and tafseer) and have explained that the reason why 2 women were asked to be witnesses rather than one is because at the time, most women didn't have any dealings with money-- they didn't know much about it. In fact, they explained that (I’m pretty sure it was Shaikh Ibn Tayima) said that today, one woman’s testimonial would be accepted.

Suroor, this has nothing to do with the conversation (well it has to do with women, LOL and witnesses and just women in general), but have you watched Tariq Suwaydan? Did you see this great episode he did on women? I ask since you speak Arabic. I keep passing it around to people speak Arabic cuz this message needs to be passed around. If you know anybody who needs to be woken up, send them this, inshaAllah:

http://www.raneem.org/3lamatni_al7iah/index.php?page=dmlkZW8=&op=ZGlzcGxheV92aWRlb19kZXRhaWxzX3U=&video_id=NDk=&lan=YXI=


I'll be back whenever I am, God's willing.

Suroor said...

Sarira, no I haven’t watched it, but I will and will Inshallah get back to you. Thanks for sharing the link with us.

You are right but I think we are all on that level of understanding here so we are preaching to the preacher :D Haha! I am currently working towards a PhD in Islamic Studies and I have so far never ever read an interpretation of verse 2:282 that claims that it applies to ALL situations. It is always understood to apply to financial issues. I think we all agree that the verse refers to a specific situation, that of financial transaction. I think if Susanne had ever doubted that she would have brought it up when she discussed Surah Baqara.

We are talking about the hadith (and I’m certain we can all come up with our own understandings of the hadith and that is all valid). What happened is Susanne used a social understanding of the hadith which was in turn based on this verse (as we all *think*). I just gave my opinion in the glitches in the link between this hadith and the verse 2:282.

Susanne said...

Wow, several more comments for me to read. Let's see how far I can get . . .

Durriyyah, thank you for the thorough comment. Loved this: "As one scientist said, women are not little men!" :-D

Thanks for sharing about your own experiences in working with both men and women. Interesting. That's great that you are trying to learn Arabic so you can read the Quran in its original form.

Suroor, yeah, I don't accept it as authentic since I don't accept Muhammad or the Quran. However, it's a sad reality for many though I hope this is changing now.

Amber, I've always been impressed by your memory. And mine is better than many men I know. ;)

Suroor, I love all the historical context you provided! I eat that stuff up - so interesting to read about feisty women! Ha, ha!

Susanne said...

Sarah, "I enjoyed Sura Yusuf, it makes a change to read a continuous story for once."

Yes, I liked that a lot! :)

Kat, "If some Muslim Male scholars deliberately distort the egalitarian message of the Quran for their own egoic desires, it is upto the women of the society to correct it."

That's an interesting spin on it. Hmmm.



Sarira, thanks for sharing the bit that you did. I hope Suroor will watch the video and let us know what she thinks. :)



Suroor, you are right. I didn't bring up the 2 witnesses things. It was on the list of stuff to not bring up in my posts. Maybe I broke my own "rule" when I said what I did about women being deficient in religion, but Potiphar's words made me do it! Ha!


Thank you all for a great discussion! Keep talking if you have more to say. :)