GENDER ISSUES - COLLOQUIUM:  Toronto Woman Gives Part of Eid Khutbah

Shaikh Mohammed Nur Abdullah

Posted Dec 16, 2004      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Toronto Star reported that a woman gave part of the Eid Khutbah in Toronto 

In our local community in Saint Louis as well as in communities across the country this has prompted a lot of discussion.

Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Greater Saint Louis and
President of the Islamic Society of North America

To understand the role of woman in Islamic society, it is not sufficient to consider the factual status of women in one society or another, but one must look at the Quran and the Sunnah of Rasulillah. The main sources of Islamic norms are the QurҒan and the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW.  These sources contain regulation and commandments including some, which relate to the role of women in Islamic society.

Allah said: O you who believe, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His messenger, If you do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best and most suitable for final determinationӔ (4:59).  He also says,  Whoever obeys the Messenger, obeys AllahӔ (4:80).  And Allah said: By your Lord they will never attend faith till they make you judge in all their affairs and then they should find any difficulty in their heart to accept and submit to youԔ al Nisa (4: )

Salat is an act of worship and all acts of worship we have to follow what our Prophet (SAW) did and after him the Khulafa and Imams of the Ummah. The Prophet (SAW) said: ғPray as you see me praying.  The salat has been a practice of the ummah through 1400 years and there is no room for modification of the Salat according to the ԓchanging times.

Woman leading the congregation

The scholars have put requirements and qualifications for the Imam of the salat, as they saw Rasulillah and his companions praying. Those qualifications:

1) To be a Muslim.  If a Muslim prays behind a non-Muslim, the prayer should be repeated, because it is not valid.

2) To be ԑAqil (have a sound mind).

3) To be Baliq (reach the age of puberty).  If a minor should lead the prayer, Abu Hanifa says the prayer (whether Fard or Sunnah) is not valid.  Malik and ibn Hanbal allow it though.

4) To be a man.  Many fuqaha allow women to lead women in prayer (Hanafi, Hanbali and Shafie).  Imam Malik did not allow her to lead the prayer (Ref: Jawahir Al Akil, vol 1, pg 78; Ibn Abdeen, vol 1 pg 388; Al Dosouqee, vol 1 pg 326).

5) To be pure (have Tahara and Wudu).  If someone does not have wudu or breaks his wudu, he should not lead the prayer.

6) To know the Ahkam (rules) of salat and to be able to read the QurҒan properly.

Womens position in prayer

In a hadith the prophet (SAW) said: ғThe best line of salat for men are the front and worse are the last. The best lines of salat for women are the last, and the worst are the front. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah the Prophet said:Ԕ A woman should not lead men in prayer, (Ibn Majah Vol:1,P343).

According to the general consensus of jurists and scholars of Hadith, a woman is not allowed to lead men in Fard or Sunnah prayer or in congregation. She is, however, allowed to lead a congregation consisting only of women.  In the latter case, it is not only permitted for women to do so, rather it may even be considered highly recommended according to Imam ShaԒfee, because of the greater rewards of praying in congregation (jamaҒah) as compared to praying individually. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never said that such rewards are solely applicable to men and that women are excluded. The authentic practice of the Mothers of the Faithful, such as `Ayesha and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them), also confirms this conclusion they lead women in fard prayer and they stood in the middle of the line( Al Muhalla Imam Ibn Hazem Vol 4 P 126,127). Ibn Umar (RA) he instructed his daughter to lead women in Ramadan, and Ayesha RA led women in Tarweeh prayer and in Maghrib prayer and she stood in the middle of line. Both of the esteemed wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who were highly regarded for their deep grasp of religion, used to lead women in Salah (Prayer).

Although the vast majority of scholars are of the opinion that a woman may not lead men at all, there is a minority of them including scholars such as Imam Ibn Jarir, and a jurists such as Abu Thawr and Al-Muzani ֖ who consider it permissible for a woman to lead members of her own household in Salah.

The last mentioned group of scholars have based their ruling on the following report of Abu Dawud on the authority of Umm Waraqah: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to visit her in her own home; he appointed a muadhin (one who calls the adhan for Prayer) for her, and ordered her to lead the members of her household (in Salah).Ҕ Umm Waraqahas stated in the sourcesחwas an esteemed woman of Al-Ansar who had memorized the Quran. `Abdul-Rahman Ibn Khalid, the narrator of the Hadith, further states: ғI happened to see her muadhin, who was a person advanced in age.Ҕ

Based on the above evidence, some scholars have concluded that a woman is allowed to lead her own family members in Salah especially in the following cases:

1) If she is exceptionally qualified and others are not so well versed in the rules of Salah and knowledge of the Quran.

2) If her husband is a new Muslim who is struggling to learn the rules of Salah and the QurҒan, while she herself is perfectly well versed in them;

3) If she is a mother of minors who are still learning the rules of Salah and the Quran

What happened in Toronto Canada with a woman giving part of the Khutba, breaks all the tradition in our religion and has never happened before in the 1400 year history of Islam.  No ґAlim who knows and has studied fiqh and the rules of Rasulillah and the Sunnah would have allowed it.  It is Haram and their salat is batil (not valid) according to the 5 main schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafie, Hanbali, and JaҒfari, as well as the Zaydis and the ZahariҒs.


Mininterpretation of the Qur’an Regarding Hijab

  Id mubarak.  This extract from the latest Islamic Minds online is from Prof. Khalid Abou el Fadl’s book Conference of the Books, published in 2000.  It refers apparently to the Khan Qur’an, but says that this Saudi translation has been around since 1995.  Is he referring to the Khan Qur’an that I first encountered in Saudi Arabia in 2000 and was distributed by the Saudi Embassy all over America shortly before 9/11?

  Since most of my low-priority books are still in containers, I do not have a copy of the Khan Qur’an and such diatribes handy.  If this is indeed referring to the Khan Qur’an, which I had never heard of when I first read Abou el Fadl’s book, this excerpt from Islamic Minds might be good to reproduce in our on-line

  We might introduce it with an excerpt from my scathing attack on the Khan Qur’an I believe in the TAM of December, 2001, and something from Imad ad Dean Ahmad’s article on the Saudi corruption of the Yusuf Ali translation, which TAM published I believe in 2002.  Prof. Abou el Fadl’s excerpt below does not even touch on the worst corruptions in the Khan Qur’an, which incite Muslims not only to attack non-Muslims but to enslave them.

  Although Imad ad Dean told me in 2002 that the Saudi Embassy had reacted to my scathing review by withdrawing all copies of the Khan Qur’an from circulation in America, I still see it in a lot of masajid. 

  Perhaps we need to launch another campaign against what I have publically called the most depraved corruption of any religion in human history, because the Khan Qur’an ranks with 9/11 as an attack on both Islam and America.  President Bush’s campaign to eliminate evil from the world is worthy of the most extreme neo-con utopianism, but by exposing the corruption in the Khan Qur’an we can at least take a targeted step to eliminate one of the most viscious causes of the extremism that breeds evil.

The following text is an opinion showing how certain authorities have mistranslated the Quran to give the English reader a different meaning than what the Word of Allah actually says. If you read the text read ALL OF IT.

And Allah is the One who Knows Best and is the Best Wittness to all that is done.

fi amanillah, assalam alaikum,

“The Noble Quran” (translation)

The standard Quran from the University of Medina, which is widely circulated and available free in the United States on the first page has the certificate of authentication and approval by the late Abd al-Aziz Bin Bazz,the ‘Head of the Ministry for Islamic Research, Legal Opinions, Preaching and Guidance” (Idarat al-Buhuth al Ilmiyya wa al Ifta wa al-dawa wa al-Irshad).

Interestingly enough, Bin Bazz did not know a word of English,but he authenticated the text none-the-less. The cover of the book reads ‘Interpretation of the Meaning of the Noble Quran in the English Language: A summarized Version of at-Tabari, al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with comments from Sahih al-Bukhari summarized in One Volume’.

The impression created by this translation is that the reader is not only receiving the insights of the authors to the meaning of the Quran, but is also receiving the insights and implicit endorsement of the text by the esteemed classical scholars such as at-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and Bukhari. In the text, the original Arabic is printed in one column, and on the opposite column is an attempt at a verse to verse translation of the Arabic text. At the bottom of the page there are hadith reports purporting to explain and elucidate upon the text. But the liberties taken with the so-called interpretation of the Arabic is nothing short of frightening.

The English text has the appearances of a translation. This appearance is only confirmed by the fact that the regular English text is full of interjections placed within parenthesis, ad these parenthetical interjections purport to the elaborations clarifying the meaning of the translated text. A reader who does not know Arabic is left with the unmistakable impression that what is within parenthesis is a natural elaboration upon the intended meaning of the Divine text.

To demonstrate the corruptions of the text, we will consider a few examples. The authors translated Surat al-Azhab (33) verse (59) in the following way: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”

In the above translation, the author assert that God’s command is that women should cloak themselves in a large veil, and cover everything except one or two eyes. The authors liberally equate a cloak to a veil and, according to the authors, God explicitly mandates that the cloaks or veils be drawn over a woman’s entire body. The author’s assertions are indefensible in light of what the Arabic actually says.

A conservative and literal translation of the first quoted verse (33:59) would read: “O Prophet tell your wives, daughters and women of the believers to lower or possibly draw upon themselves) their garments. That is better so that they will not be known and molested. And God is forgiving and merciful.”

The operative words in Arabic are ‘yudnina alayhinna min jalabibihinna’. This could mean ‘lower their garments’ or ‘draw their garments closer to their bodies’. Jalabibihinna literally means, ‘their garments’. A jilbab is a garment, like a dress or Arab robe, which has stitches and thread. A single piece of cloth like a chador or an abayah which some women wrap around their bodies in the modern age, would normally be called a jilbab. ‘Yudina’ literally means to bring closer or to lower something, in this case a garb. Therefore, one can interpret this verse to require the covering of the legs, or a more vigilant covering of the torso, or, simply, modesty, but the original text does not support the author’s rendition into English.

Muslim Jurists have disagreed on the meaning of this verse. Some argued that it mandates the covering of the legs or bosom. The majority asserted that it requires the covering of the full body except the face, hands and feet. A minority view held by Ubayda al-Salmani and Ibn Abbas maintained that the verse exhorts women to cover their faces. Importantly, however, the reports about Ibn Abbas’s views are not consistent. Some reports claim that he did not believe the face or hands should be covered.

A number of jurists who held the minority view argued that women are asked to cover their faces and hands not because it is a religious obligation but because of the advisability of distinguishing between FREE and SLAVE women. This point about the distinction between FREE and SLAVE women raises a very important issue about the way this verse should be understood. Nearly all the commentators agreed that this verse was revealed to protect women from molestation. These commentators state that there was a group of young and corrupt men in Medina who harassed and sometimes molested women at night. Apparently, these men targeted only slaves and not free women. They distinguished between a slave and a free woman by the cloth they wore; if the woman wore a jilbab, they assumed she was free and left her alone, and if she did not, they assumed she was a slave and harassed her.

The commentators state that in response to this problem, these verses were revealed with the specific purpose of responding to this particular problem. Consequently many jurists argued that the illa (operative cause) for the jilbab is to address this specific type of problem. Therefore, many of those who claim that the jilbab should cover the face also hinge the analysis on the operative cause of the law, arguing that this law is relevant only if there is an issue involving the distinction between slave and free women, and a problem involving harassment and molestation. If this particular type of problem does not exist, the exhortations of the verse are not pertinent.

It is quite possible from this analysis a general moral call for modesty and a principle of safe conduct. It is possible to argue that these particular verses are establishing social norms of modesty and self-restraint. Relying partly on this verse, the majority of premodern jurists argued that the AWRA (private parts that must be covered) of a slave girl is DIFFERENT from the awra of a free woman.

They maintained that the awra of a free woman is her whole body except her face and hands, and many jurists added the feet. This means that a free woman should cover everything except the face and hands and, perhaps, the feet. But the jurists asserted that a slave-girl does not have to cover her hair, neck, arms, and some even added the chest.

This of course, raises the question: What is the basis for this distinction? Is the hair, arms or chest of a slave-girl less capable of inducing seduction than that of a free woman? The response cannot be in the affirmative; the body parts of a slave-girl are no less enticing than their counterparts in a free woman. The response largely depends on social norms. The social norms of the time did not consider it immodest for slave-girls to leave their hair uncovered, while it was considered shameful for free women to nothave a jilbab that would cover her body, and hair.

This raises the larger questions: To what extend is this Quranic verse addressing a particular social institution, and to what extent can this verse be generalized beyond its specific social assumptions. One way to generalize the verse is to extract or distill the fundamental moral and normative values that are affirmed by this verse, and, in essence, these values seem to emphasize modesty and safety of conduct. This point is open to debate.

For our purposes, however, the most significant point is that this verse raises some rather complex issues that merit reflection and study. But by forcing a single and quite specific narrow minority view upon the verse is, without doubt, a corruption of God’s word. The authors quite intentionally limit the text to a singular meaning that is designed to cater to whatever prejudices they have toward women.

In a similar example and on the same subject of veiling of women, the authors translate Surah al-Nur (24) verse 31, as follows: “..And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head- over, apron, etc) and to draw their veils over juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms etc) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, fathers.”

But a literal translation and more honest translation of the above text would read: “And say to the believing women to lower their gaze, and guard their private parts, and that they should not display their adornments except what would ordinarily appear. And, that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and that they should not display their beauty except to their husbands..:” The Quranic Arabic instructs that women should take their KHIMARS and cover their JAYB (pl. juyub). The Arabic is ‘wal yadribna bi khumurihinna ala juyubihinna’ which means that women should take their khimars and strike with it or place it upon their bosoms.

According to the authoritative lexicon of Lisan al-Arab by Ibn Manzur (d. 711/1311), a khimar is a piece of cloth that is worn on the head. A man’s turban may be called a khimar as well, and a man wearing a turban may be called a mukhtamir. A jayb is a bosom of a human being. It could also be where the neck and chest meet or the beginning of the cleavage area on a woman’s chest. Furthermore, a shirt, garment, or pocket may be called a jayb as well.

The jurists add that the khimar was a cloth worn by women in pre-Islamic times on the neck and that it was normally thrown toward the back leaving the head and chest exposed. The verse apparently instructs that the piece of cloth normally worn on the head (the khimar) or neck be made to cover the bosom or to descend down to the point of touching the cloth.

Commentators of the Quran repeatedly emphasize that women in Mecca and Medina were in the habitof exposing all or most of their chests, even if their hair was covered. Consequently, it is quite possible that the point of the revelation was to call upon women to cover theirchests. But whatever may be the case, nothing in the verse indicates that the khimar is to cover the face or hands.

If the verse intended that the face be covered, it would have stated ‘wal yadribna bi khumurihinna ala wujuhihinna’ (instruct them to place the khimar on their faces). But the verse does not allude or refer to the face in any way. In fact, what partially covers the face is usually referred to as niqab, and what covers the head is normally referred to as khimar. But the Quranic verse doe not use the word niqab anywhere.

Although the verse does not explicitly require the covering of the hair, it is possible that the verse assumes it. But to extract more than that from this verse requires an incredulous degree of creative reconstruction at best, or arrogant and malicious misogyny at worst.

One should also note that the verse states that women should not display their ornaments except what would normally appear. The Arabic is ‘illa ma dhahara minha’ which is an ambiguous phrase. The closest rendering in English of this phrase is ‘that which appears’ or ‘that which would normally appear’. This phrasing leaves open the question of whether customs or social standards may influence notions of propriety and modesty.

The vast majority of Muslim jurists asserted that the phrase ‘what would normally appear’ refers to two distinct elements. The first is URF of ADA custom and established practice) and the second is HARAJ (hardship). Meaning, this phrase refers to what are admittedly adornments and perhaps objects of enticement, but they are adornments that do not have to be covered because they normally appear either as a matter of custom or because they need to appear to avoid and alleviate potential hardship.

Jurists such as Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi (d. 754/1353) and al-Razi (d.606/1210)explain that the operative legal inquiry is: What normally appears as a matter of practice, what needs to appear so that the law will not impose undue hardship, and how can these two elements be accommodated within the bounds of modesty?

Modesty does not mean removing all forms of adornments or enticements. One, that is not possible without excluding women entirely from society, and two, the Quran acknowledges that certain adornments (zinah) are permitted to appear.

Modesty, at a minimum, does mean lowering one’s garment and covering the bosom area. Most Muslim jurists concluded, from this discussion, that the face and hands are adornments that do not have to be covered because it would create hardship to ask that they be covered, and because established social practices do not necessitate that they be covered.

* Some jurists evaluating these same types of considerations allowed the appearance of the ears, the forearms, the neck, the feet, or anything on-half of an arm;slength below the knee.

* Other jurists argued that since the awra of a woman in prayer or ihram is the face, hands and feet, in all circumstances, only these body parts may appear.

* A significant number of jurists thought that the comparison to ibadat worship/prayer) is not relevant to the issue of determining which adornments may appear.

The rules of modesty in ibadat involve a very different set of issues than those involved in determining established social practice and hardship. Some jurists such as Said Ibn Jubayr (d. 95/714) disfavored exposing the hair although they did not consider the hair to be part of a woman’s awra. The majority of jurists argued that the hair is part of the awra of a free woman, but not a slave-girl.

As mentioned above, the distinction between the rules of modesty for slave- irls and free women is rather significant. Perhaps because slave-girls lived active social and economic lives, the vast majority of jurists concluded that slaves did not need to cover their hair, or arms or anything below the knees. Some went as far as saying the chest of a slave-girl did not need to be covered, but this seems to be in direct contradiction with the Quranic verse discussed above.

Much of the distinction in the case of slave-girls seems to rely on the appraisal of the twin elements of established social practice and hardship. Relying on their evaluation of these two elements, the jurists concluded that the adornments of slave-girls that could appear were very different that those of free women. Interestingly, a minority of jurists argued that the rules for poor women, who need to lead economically active lives were the same as those for slave girls.

Today the distinction between free women and slave-girls to say the least, is spurious, and the whole issue needs to be re-analyzed. Established social practices and hardship connote moral imperatives, but the factual identification of either of these elements is empirical, not just a textual matter. In other words, if the law incorporates two distinct normative values, the first of which is established social practice and the second of which is the removal of hardship, these two normative values need to be balanced against the requirement of modesty. But determining what is, in fact, an established social practice or a source of hardship, these two normative values need to be balanced against the requirement of modesty.

But determining what is, in fact, an established practice or a source of hardship is an empirical factual question that is subject to re evaluation and re examination as the circumstances dictate in different times and places. The input and testimony of women as to what constitutes hardship in today’s environment is crucial. Put differently, men cannot simply assume to who what should ‘normally appear’ of a woman’s adornment. This is a matter where those most concerned (i.e. women) must have a clear and decisive voice.

There is no question that various textual sources establish the outer parameters of this negotiative process - for instance, the chest or anything above the knee may appear. However, within the outer parameters there is room for negotiation, re-evaluation, and analysis. Most importantly, the Quran does not demand or expect that all sources of fitna (enticement) be eradicated in society. The Quran balances the various rights, and unlike our dismissive friends, the Quran does not expect women to bear the full burden of modesty. The weakness of men cannot be the source of hardship and suffering for women, and any approach that does not acknowledge this fact, in my view, is not true to the spirit or letter of the Quran.

The authors of the translation, however, seem to be working under a very different set of assumptions. They seem to be under the misimpression that the Quran aims to eradicate all sources of enticement in society, and that women should bear the brunt of the burden in this process. Hence, women should be covered from head to toe except perhaps for one roaming eye, and men may happily prance around undisturbed by delectable female parts. Worst of all, this fundamentally male-indulgent view is presented as God’s unquestionable truth.

The only truth here is that the authors simply forced their idiosyncrasies of their own culture upon God’s text. Consequently, none of the richness and equanimity of the text is reflected in their translation. Rather, the text is made to represent and embody their authoritarian and despotic constructions.

The text of the translation does not give any indication that the absurd renderings of the Divine Test are a result of the idiosyncrasies of the authors. In fact, the authors attempt to confirm the impression of the immutability of their renderings by twice quoting a tradition as footnote to the above quoted verses. The footnote says: Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba: Aisha used to say: When the verse, ‘They should draw their veils over theirbodies, faces, necks and bosoms’ was revealed, the ladies cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces. (Sahih of Bukhari, Vol 6 no 282)

The truly shocking realization for anyone with a command of Arabic language is the shameless dishonesty and remarkable liberties taken when translating this hadith. The author’s translation of the statement attributed to Aisha (d. 58/678), the Prophet’s wife, and reported in Bukhari is nothing short of an outright misrepresentation.

The original in Bukhari states that when verse 24:32 was revealed, Aisha said: The women took their garments and tore pieces of cloth from the edges and YAAKHTAMARNA BIHA. Yaakhtamarna biha means that the women took their pieces of torn cloth and wore them as a khimar, and as mentioned above, a khimar could be a piece of cloth worn on the head. So presumably, the women wore the pieces of torn garment on their heads.

Another version of the same report, also in Bukhari, provides that only the women migrants of Mecca (al-Muhajiroon) were quick to comply. Other versions of the hadith reported elsewhere, state that the women of the Ansar were the ones who promptly complied.

In either case, the original Arabic does not in anyway indicate that the veils were worn on the face. The most one can understand from Aisha’s tradition is that women covered their heads. But one cannot help but wonder, if the women cut a big enough piece from the edges of their skirts to cover theirs heads ad faces, did this mean that these women left their legs exposed?

In any case, the authenticity of this tradition, with it’s many versions has been questioned, and some versions indicate that the response of the women in Medina was to cover their bosoms.

Another example, and there are many examples, of corrupting the text, verse 4:#4 was translated in the following fashion: “Men are the maintainers of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands) and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.) As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful).”

The original Arabic text doe not refer to husbands as the recipient of women’s obedience. The original talks about women who are pious, humble before God, and observant of God’s commands.

The corrupted text not only inserts a reference to husbands, but also equates obedience to husbands with obedience to God. Furthermore, the translation leaves the reader with the distinct impression that husbands may punish their wives for what, in the husbands judgment, constitutes ‘ill-conduct’. This leads to a separate discussion all together.

Why are husbands, as a category, given full authority to act as judge, jury, and executioner against women for what they alone deem as ‘ill-conduct’? What if a husband is less pious than the wife? Furthermore, the word used in the original is NUSHZ, which means a serious deviation or gross misconduct and, in either case, the verse does not authorize husbands to beat their wives.

The word azwaj (husbands) is not mentioned in God’s text and, as explained earlier in the Conference, the verse is talking about gross sexual misconduct, which is distinct from other types of ‘ill-conduct’ particularly from the purview of Islamic law.

The Noble Quran translation/interpretation of the Quran is widely distributed in the United States. According to this translation, God commanded women to cover their faces, necks, bosoms, arms, legs and hands. Furthermore, the reader is informed that God commanded devout obedience to God’s self, and then mandated the same type of obedience for husbands. From the gross liberties taken in translating the text, apparently the translators believe that God wishes women to be like house broken dogs -loyal, timid, sweet and obedient. One can only ponder what type of rotted and foul soul imagines that God wishes to imprison women in a sewer of squalid male egos, and suffer because men cannot control their libidos. What an ugly picture they have created of God’s compassion and mercy.

According to the translations, God ordained the veil, and the veil must cover the face, except for one or two eyes, and only the palms of the hands may appear. The eyes are supposed to be covered. Apparently as concession to women, so that they may be able to walk. What if a woman had a seeing eye-dog, would she need to cover her eyes as well? But of course, dogs are devilish abominations in their thought, and so perhaps a woman could hire a slave to guide her through the streets. So in this nightmarish and macabre world, a slave would guide another slave to the alter of male divinity.

Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder how does a woman cover the back of her hands, but still show her palms? The translation mentions the wearing of gloves, but I wonder, since gloves as they exist today, were probably unknown to the Prophet, why aren’t gloves considered a heretical innovation (bidah)?

There is a hadith attributed to the Prophet in which he forbids women from wearing a quffaz (hand covering) or niqab while in a state of ihram (a state of ritual purity during pilgrimage). Scholars, however, have doubted the authenticity of this tradition. The scholars asserted that this was simply the opinion of Ibn Umar, and it was wrongfully attributed to the Prophet. In any case, quffaz, as used in the tradition, meant either a decoration made of cloth worn on the hand as a form of beautification or a loose piece of cloth stuffed with cotton and having buttons on the side worn as protection from the cold. These hands covers were loose dark, and large. Isn’t the tightness of today’s gloves a fitna (enticement), and shouldn’t women wear loose black bags on their hands so that no one may be enticed by the attractive contours of the hand? Truly, ugliness can only beget absurdities.

The reader is left with the impression that the idiosyncratic understandings of the authors translations are supported by the traditions of Bukhari, and the Quranic commentators of al-Tabari, al-Qurubi and Ibn Kathir. But Bukhari’s reports are grossly corrupted (in translation), and the commentaries of al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir do not support the author’s understanding.

In fact, these Quranic commentators report a variety of views and conclude that women may show their faces, hands and feet. In other words, the authors of ‘The Noble Quran’ translation usurped the authority of these distinguished scholars, but apparently did not bother to read or correctly represent what these scholars actually said.

This translation is nothing more than a faithful reproduction of Bin Baaz’s extremely conservative and intolerant views, and the views of the scholars serving in the Saudi dar al-Ifta.

It is clear that the authors translation and their supporters do not like women, and that they projected their inadequacies and deformities upon God’s text and the whole Islamic intellectual tradition. Truly, the agony of the Muslim plight in the modern world cannot be expressed either in words or tears. What else can be said about those who seem to have declared an unmitigated war against women and who brandish the weapons of grotesque misogyny? What can one say about those people who, in theirutter ignorance and maniacal arrogance, subjugate even the word of God to their ugliness and deformities?

‘Who is more unjust than those who suppress the testimony they received from God, and God is not oblivious as to what they do’ (2:!40)‘These folks, the cult they are in, is destined to ruin, and false is whatthey practice’(7:139)

[Taken from: Conference of the Books, Abou el Fadl, p. 290-301]

see also Iranian ruling on women leading other women in prayer