Review of Amina Wadud's article,
"`A'ishah's Legacy: the struggle for women's rights in Islam."
Amina Wadud is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of _Qur'an and Woman_ by Amina Wadud-Muhsin (Fajar Bakti Malaysia, available through Oxford Univ Press, 1992). The website blurb states, "Professor Wadud is one of the foremost Muslim feminist scholars. This brief article, published in the New Internationalist (vol. 345, May, 2002), will introduce readers to Islamic feminism."
Her article: A’ishah’s legacy
"Amina Wadud looks at the struggle for women's rights within Islam."
Amina Wadud does a marvelous tapdance around the exclusivity of the Qur'an as a source of Law in Islam except when it comes to illustrating proto-feminist themes, such as praising our Mother `A'isha "from whom," Wadud says, "the Prophet said we should learn 'half our religion'" (a forgery according to Ibn Hajar, Ibn Kathir, al-Mizzi, al-Dhahabi, al-Qari, et alia). Ms. Wadud chooses to dismiss Hadith in her main argumentation and when she invokes it to make a point - in violation of her own principles - she invokes the weakest possible kind. This kind of contradiction is all-too-typical of Orientalists and their spokesmen in Muslim veneer pitting the Qur'an against Hadith but quoting hadithic sources right and left if it suits them!
Wadud should not have invoked only Qur'an but
also Hadith for the main issues she raises and then only the strong
and authentic hadiths. For example, the hadith of the creation
of woman from Adam's rib which is in Sahih al-Bukhari and
Sahih Muslim. Not that Eve "is a flawed female helpmate extracted
from him as an afterthought or utility." Those are Wadud's
own inflammatory words. However, the rib is the protection
of the heart and Woman represents the protection of Man rather
than the reverse, but for such protection to take place then man
must protect woman in the first place. This is because if any
harm reaches the rib (woman) then the heart (man) is left unprotected.
The Prophet upon him peace, said in that very same hadith:
"Therefore, treat women kindly."
Unfortunately, this hadith does not find favor as feminist evidence in feminist discourse.
It is in the hadith that one will find the strongest and most explicit excoriation of wife-beating and it is from the Qur'an that wife-beaters usually fish out their idea of a justification.
We have yet to find enlightened and educated feminist discourse in our midst. This is not to say there are no intelligent feminists, however, feminism itself seems by definition - like the Qur'an-only fraud - to take on too big an opponent. Someone has to tell them, your arms are too short to box with the Sunna. Add to this ingrained flaw the basic ignorance of facts related to the intellectual tradition of Islam, its sciences, its history.
For example, Wadud says:
The marvelous imprecision of such a sweeping statement and the fact that it is quite meaningless, did not hinder Wadud in the least because she is not interested in history, but in the libeling of an image - what she considers exclusively 'male scholarship'. In the process of her gender assassination she commits blunder after blunder:
1. Leading scholars and thinkers were not exclusively but *predominantly* male during the Abbasid period as in any other period, if it mattered.
Even then, so what? If those Abbasid Scholars had been predominantly women, is it to say that they would have been inherently more honest and qualified?
2. None had "experience with revelation first hand" except Prophets - an exclusively male category - unless she means direct contact with one that had experience with revelation first hand, i.e. the Companions, a predominantly male group.
3. Every student knows that the Ulema of Islam kept fiercely aloof from politics, let alone "intellectual and moral cultures antithetical to Islam" including philosophy, except for a small number of inordinately discriminating, careful scholars. To say that they were adversely misguided as a whole is baseless calumny - buhtân - of the first order.
Wadud goes on to claim:
And this caricature is the desired image which feminists want to stick in every mind. It is not only simplistic but invidious to scholarly history and dishonest to the Umma past and present.
Amina Wadud is the academic face of a Western Islam rife with harmful revisionists that play directly into the hands of anti- Muslim re-fashioners of Islam intent on re-writing not only Fiqh and Tafsir but the Qur'an itself. I have no expectation but that my remarks be dismissed as the standard conservative line. But Western Muslims need not be hoodwinked by the Amina Waduds in their midst when they can benefit from the enlightened feminism of Abdal Hakim Murad, Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, and the unpretentious, practical feminism of other Western Muslim leaders too knowledgeable to indulge in frivolous revisionism and the nonsense of blaming hadith and past male scholars. Nor do they say of Allah "He/She/It"!
A strong emerging scholarship on the place of woman in Islamic intellectual history should soon refute all such fraudulent endeavors with facts and keep quack feminism out of Islam.
This is not to say that issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse taking place in the midst of Islamic society should not be addressed. They should be addressed, exposed, excoriated. But not at the expense of the entire Islamic tradition. As one student of knowledge once wrote, "until practicing Muslims who strive to adhere to Shari`a, who study, who would otherwise be labeled as 'conservatives' stand up and say something, Muslim women's issues will continue to be the domain of non Muslim feminists and the establishment who brushes them off with, 'That's cultural, not Islam,' and then launch into the Lecture of the Ideal Status of Muslim Women vs. the Reality of Western Women."
[14 May 2003]