Sunday, March 17, 2013

VIDEO: Mwalimu K Baruti on Complimentarity

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check out the following important lecturer by pan-Afrikan scholar Mwalimu K Bomani Baruti:


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Does The Qur'an Sanction Wife-Beating?

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Interested readers are invited to check out the website which presents a Qur'anic position on the issue of wife-beating via exhaustive analysis of the verb daraba and its derivatives in The Qur'an.


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Reflections on (24:30-31)

The Qur'an (24:30-31) states:
Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, God/Allah is Acquainted with what they do. 
And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to God/Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.
There are a number of important points to note in connection with the above signs/indicators (ayaat):

1. In Arabic, the masculine plural is used when referring to a group of people consisting of both men and women unless the context warrants a more restricted interpretation, viz. men only. In the case of (24:30), the word al-mu'mineen (genitive case of al-mu'minoon) is used which which is masculine plural; however, (24:30) is followed immediately by (24:31) which makes use of the feminine plural, al-mu'minaat. Thus, the term al-mu'mineen (genitive case of al-mu'minoon) can be understood to refer to men only and the matters discussed in (24:30) considered to relate to them; by contrast, the term al-mu'minaat unequivocally refers to women only and the matters discussed in (24:31) should be understood to concern them. In short, (24:30) and (24:31) can be understood as gender-specific or gender-exclusive. However, there is another way of reading (24:30) that is gender-inclusive, viz. (24:30) can be see as general ('amm) - since the masculine plural al-mu'minoon can cover both men and women - while (24:31) is seen as specific (khass) - since the feminine plural al-mu'minaat only covers women. In short, it might be argued that (24:30) applies to both men and women, whereas (24:31) applies only to women (for the most part);

2. It is crucial to appreciate that (24:31) ends with use of the word al-mu'minoon which is masculine plural. Since this word can cover both men and women, and given that this word is preceded by use of the word jamee'an ("all together", "all of you"), it is rendered in the inclusive form, viz. as referring to both men and women. I am inclined to think that this means that (24:30) and (24:31) should be considered together, as forming a "grouping" (jam'a) of signs/indicators; in fact, I would go further and suggest that these signs/indicators need to be inter-related in order to be correctly understood and that they inform us about male-female dynamics;

3. The wording of both signs/indicators is almost identical (apart from gender construction) at the start: Both al-mu'minoon and al-mu'minaat are commanded by God/Allah to "reduce their vision and guard their private parts". However, after this, the content of each sign/indicator (ayat) differs quite significantly;

4. The words for "reduce" in (24:30) and (24:31) are yaghuddu and yaghdudna respectively, both of which are the third person plural imperfect form of the verb ghadda which according to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2005), means "to lower, restrain, cast down (the eyes, looks, or voice)." Elsaid M Badawi and Muhammad Abdel Haleem, authors of Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur'anic Usage (2008), give the following meaning of ghadda: "to be tender, to be young; to be affluent; to cast one's eyes down, to show humility, to be modest, to check." It is interesting to note that this verb appears in The Qur'an only four times and always in the imperfect form. In (31:19) and (49:3), it is used in connection with "lowering the voice", i.e. turning down / reducing its volume. In (24:30) and (24:31), the verbs for "lowering" / "reducing" / "restraining" are followed in each case by the particle min which according to 'Omar is a preposition used for expressing "starting point, part of a whole, origin as, from, of some, amongst." In short, what is being ordered by God/Allah is to "cast down" (or "reduce", "restrain", "lower") part / some of what in both signs/indicators is given as absaar, i.e. "vision", from the verb basara which according to 'Omar means "to see, look at, understand." The important point here is that basar refers to seeing with understanding in the sense of mental perception, i.e. it is not a passive or 'blank' staring at something. Thus, I would argue that (24:30) and (24:31) are not instructing believing men (al-mu'minoon) and believing women (al-mu'minaat) to lower / reduce their vision completely / absolutely, i.e. not to look at members of the other sex at all, but rather, to lower / reduce their looking somewhat, i.e. lower/ reduce their vision relatively. I am inclined to think that both groups are being ordered to reduce the scope (breadth) and intensity (depth) of their vision, i.e. to "cool/tone it down" so that it is not so penetrating; in short, to look / gaze without lust/desire, which has important implications for male-female dynamics;

5. After instructing believing men and women to lower / reduce their gaze / vision, The Qur'an instructs them to "guard their private parts". It is interesting to note that "lower the gaze", which concerns perception, is here being followed up immediately with "guard the private parts" which is an action, indicating the link between perception and action;

6. Al-mu'minoon are informed in (24:30) that lowering their gaze and guarding their private parts is "purer" [/ purest] (azka) for them. The word azka is an elative derived from the verbal root zaka which according to 'Omar means "to grow, be pure and clean, purify, be righteous, thrive, prosper, succeed, grow strong, improve". In contrast to the verb tahara which means "to be pure; clean, chaste, righteous, free from her courses (woman), remove" and which has 'negative' connotations in the sense of an absence or removal of something (i.e. dirt, filth etc) - in short, purification from something - the verb zaka has 'positive' connotations in the sense of a coming into presence of something, i.e. the development or growth of something. I should point out that according to Marmaduke Muhammad Pickthall, the first English Muslim revert to translate The Qur'an into English, the word zakaat means "to cultivate through pruning". As he states in The Cultural Side of Islam (Islamic Culture), "the Arabic word 'falah' means success through cultivation. And there is another Arabic word, in common use among Muslims, of which the original meaning is often forgotten in its technical application: zakaat meaning, 'cultivation by pruning', 'causing to grow straight'." (p.6) On this basis, Pickthall is led to render (91:9) as "He is indeed successful who causes it (the human soul) to grow aright". Thus, it might be argued that lowering the gaze and guarding the private parts is a means by which to effect tazkiyyah (self-development) in al-mu'minoon. It is interesting to note that there is no explicit mention in (24:31) of lowering the gaze and guarding the private parts being a means by which to effect tazkiyyah (self-development) in al-mu'minaat. Is this because use of the masculine plural in (24:30) is gender-inclusive, i.e. covers both men and women, and so the issue of tazkiyyah does not need to be re-stated for women in (24:31)? Or should (24:30) be understood to be gender-exclusive since it is followed immediately by (24:31), indicating thereby that there is something specific to men in relation to the operation of the basar (sight, look, gaze) such that restraining its operation effects tazkiyyah for them, but not for women?

7. (24:31) lays down general and specific directives for what might be described as female dress code, including the mandatory covering of the juyoob (cleavage / breast area). Women are instructed to not display their adornment (zeenat) except for that which is apparent (ma zahara minha), neither of which terms are defined explicitly, and they are also commanded to not stamp their feet so as to make known what is concealed of their adornment, i.e. not to draw attention to themselves. Clearly, this sign/indicator (ayat) is concerned with the relation of stimuli considered as stimulating to the male vision / look / gaze (basar). I understand this as indicating neither strength nor weakness on the part of men or women, but rather as simply
expressing the nature of things in terms of male-female dynamics;

8. If (24:30) is interpreted in a gender-exclusive manner then it appears that the mention of tazkiyyah for men and the directives for women to dress in a modest / appropriate manner in (24:31) might indicate a behavioural asymmetry between men and women. Men are told to lower their gaze and guard their private parts as this will produce an internal effect (since tazkiyyah is of the 'self'/nafs); women are told to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and then instructed to dress in a modest/appropriate manner, a directive which arguably concerns matters that are external in nature. I am inclined to wonder whether this indicates an "inverse relationship" between men and women in that, in general, men have external strength yet internal weakness, while women, in general, have internal strength yet external weakness. (This line of thinking is motivated by a consideration of the general line of argument put forward by Sachiko Murata in The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought and by the first entry in the table shown on pages 44 and 45 of Fire in The Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen.) It is crucial to appreciate that I am not necessarily advancing an essentialist position here - that is, I am not saying that men, by nature / universally, are externally strong and internally weak and that women, by nature / universally, are internally strong and externally weak; it is quite possible that these signs/indicators should be understood as describing a historically-contingent situation. In other words, in a different place and time, the characteristics might be reversed;

9. If, however, (24:31) is interpreted in a gender-inclusive manner then an asymmetry between men and women exists in that it is women who are directed to dress in a modest/appropriate manner; however, this does not reflect an "inverse relationship" involving internal/external spheres, but rather a difference in the responses of men and women to visual stimuli considered sensuous (i.e. associated with sexuality) requiring, thereby, a differential response in terms of means by which to address its adverse effects;

10. (24:30) ends with the phrase inn'Allaha khabeerun bima yasna-oon which has been rendered above as "Indeed, God/Allah is Acquainted with what they do". Here, the verb is yasna-oon, rather than the more common y'amaloon from 'amala which according to 'Omar means "to do, make, act, work, operate, perform, construct, manufacture, practice a handicraft, be active." The word yasna-oon is derived from the verb sana'a which means "to make, do, create, build, work a thing, nourish, bring up." 'Omar lists the following as derived words from this verbal root: "Sun‘un: An act; That which is done. Masna‘un plu. Masani‘: Cistern; Palace; Citadel; Fine building; Fortress. San‘atun: Making; Art of making." I am inclined to think that this word has been used rather than y'amaloon to draw out the connotations of a looking / gazing that involves an act of perception (basar) which results in ever more fanciful constructions; in short, as referring to the cultivation of lustful fantasizing.


VIDEO: Women Jurists in Islamic History

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check out the following early lecture by Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl:

 Part 1


 Part 2



Monday, June 25, 2012

VIDEO: Sexual Desires by Nouman Ali Khan

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check this out:

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Male Brain, The Female Brain and (24:30-31)

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the difference between two signs/indicators (ayaat) in The Qur'an:

(24:30) Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do.

Qul lilmu/mineena yaghuddoo min absarihum wa yahfazoo furoojahum zalika azkalahum inna Allaha khabeerun bima yasnaAAoon


(24:31) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent...

Wa qul lilmu/minati yaghdudna min absarihinna wa yahfazna furoojahunna wala yubdeena zeenatahunna illa ma zahara minha...

I am intrigued by the presence of the phrase "That is purer for them" (zalika azkalahum) in respect of 'believing men' (al-mu'mineen) in (24:30), and the absence of this phrase in respect of 'believing women' (al-mu'minaat) in (24:31).

While I am certainly no genetic determinist/reductionist, the reality of neuroplasticity and biological differences in the brains of males and females have led me to consider whether there may be a neurophysiological issue relevant to the understanding of the phrase "That is purer for them" (zalika azkalahum). Crucially, this phrase is better rendered as "That is more conducive to their growth/cultivation through pruning" since the verb zaka has as its basic meaning "to cultivate through pruning".

In this connection, I would refer interested readers to the following two articles available online:

Canli, T. and Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2004) Imaging Gender Differences in Sexual Arousal. Nature Neuroscience 7(4), 325-326.

Hamann, S., Herman, R.A., Nolan, C.L., Wallen, K. (2004) Men and Women Differ in Amygdala Response to Visual Sexual Stimuli. Nature Neuroscience 7(4), 411-416.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

ARTICLES: Hijab, Khimar and Head Covering

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check out the following articles:

Women in Islam: Hijab by Ibrahim B Syed

Issues: Hijab by Ibrahim B Syed

The Qur'an Does Not Mandate Hijab by Ibrahim B Syed

Hijab An interpretation of Islamic women's dress by Rachel Woodlock


ARTICLE: Qur'an and Woman

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check out the following article:

Qur'an and Woman by Amina Wadud Muhsin


Thursday, May 19, 2011

VIDEO: From Voice to Action: The New Ijtihad and Social Change (Amina Wadud Muhsin)

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check this out:


Amina Wadud Muhsin's presentation starts at (35:25).