Disregarded Verses: Women as Examples for Men

They are actually proclaimed in the Qur’an as examples for people, but to this day they are considered to have been meant for only women when believing men should also accept them as an ideal to strive toward. Shoshie, Jewish feminist, writes,

This shit happens a lot in Jewish commentaries. Women are erased. Exemptions for women turn into prohibitions. Restrictive laws for men fall out of practice but become more stringent for women. And it’s crap.

And we’ve seen here already that the same is true for translations and commentaries in the Qur’an. Women are deliberately ignored or erased, and there is a silent agreement in this global patriarchy that any mention of a woman in religious text is an example for women only, even when the text itself unarguably states that the example is for everyone.

And God cites an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said: “My Lord! Build for me a home with thee in the Garden, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from evildoing folk.” And Mary, daughter of Imran, whose body was chaste, therefor We breathed therein something of Our Spirit. And she put faith in the words of her Lord and the Scriptures, and was of the truly devout. (Qur’an 66:11–12)

Those who believe. Gender-neutral in both Arabic and English, and yet there is a consensus that these must be parables for only women.

Even through its literary beauty and eloquence, the Qur’an is essentially a book of morals, filled with examples and solid information. Nothing is without reason–diction, syntax, detail, everything serves a purpose to be examined. And the very reason the Qur’an is appropriate for all times and universally applicable is because it is contextual. If there is something in the Qur’an that is not appropriate to modern times, you have failed to understand it. If you are murdering every non-Muslim you see, you have failed to take the Qur’an in context, the very process through which it is universal. The Qur’an is the Last Book, meant to be relevant until the end of time. And within it, stories have specific characters in specific situations, and when we erase or completely ignore or misconstrue details we fail to understand the complete message. It becomes lost, consequently other verses appear disorderly, and everything drowns in noise. Properly interpreting the text with the standards dictated in the Qur’an as a whole picture becomes difficult.

For example, a reader would notice that in the Qur’an, when a woman is spoken of, she is related to a family member: ex. Mary, the daughter of Imran; furthermore, Mary is the only woman called by a name. The Queen of Sheba is referred to by her respectful titled–the Queen. To us, the latter is obvious that it signifies respect, because calling others by titles to respect them is something we still practice today. The former, of following the name of a woman with that of a relative, has for the most part died for our time and is even viewed as sexist, as the relative is nearly always male. However, when the Qur’an was revealed, this was a sign of deep respect: for someone to be related to a family or have a title was a mark of high reverence and adoration. A person was not called by his or her name without a title or family relation unless that person was close to the speaker, like a child or sibling or a spouse. That is why women in the Qur’an are not referred to by their names. The contexual message to be carried away here is the universal, timeless principle that women should be addressed respectfully by the standards of the given society and era.

The Qur’an also does not mention Jesus without son of Mary. Not even once, confirming that the respective title marks equal value in a matriarchal relation according to God.

Muhammad is referred to as the Prophet of God.

Concepts become concrete in the events the Qur’an describes, whether one takes a figurative or literal interpretation of these events. The characters and circumstances through which they struggle and the ramifications of the actions they take provide us with these guidelines. If certain characters who are meant to be role models for all believers of both sexes are incorrectly interpreted to be examples for solely women, it is a sign of oppression. And when translators, or a society high on its patriarchal self, erase details and ignore something as crucial as the women which God has selected to be examples for all of believers, regardless of sex–

that is a war against women, a strike of disrespectfulness, against the Word of God.

18 thoughts on “Disregarded Verses: Women as Examples for Men

  1. almostclever

    I was watching a docu last night called "Koran from Heart" and there was a little girl who was really really good at math and science and had dreams of becoming a marine biologist because she was interested in the ocean and everything that lives underneath the surface. Her Mom supported her and wanted to see her educated but her Dad wanted her to memorize Quran and be given religious education and wanted to move her to Yemen (they are from Maldives) so she could get a "real Islamic education." The girl's mom told her she has to tell her Dad what her dreams are, and at the end of the movie the Dad says she can get her education but she must become a housewife, that she must be a housewife. I lost a little faith… He is the stereotypical example of the Muslim man, and I am so sick of being caught off guard by the deep misogyny. Even the "moderates" in this movie pissed me off with their obvious sexism towards this young girl (she was in a Quran reciting competition and they marveled at her going up against boys.I have to admit sometimes I question religion completely, and wonder if women are not better off without it. Jewish, Christian and Muslim women; all held back and held down in the name of religion. I am moody today, that docu brought me way down. Being caught off guard by the sheer sexism inherent in some men never fails to bring out my anger and utter pessimism. Nahida I love your post, I just wish it was a reality for us. I wish people (besides feminists) saw it that way. They do not. This is where I become depressed that women's equality is still not mainstream. It is such a long road.

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  2. It is a very long road. And the mysogyny is always shocking. Sexism is so illogical that it seems almost unreal. And arguing with someone and showing him how he's wrong using the Qur'an itself is nearly always upsetting when he insists on being rooted in his unIslamic perspective. That's privilege. They don't want to lose their power. They felt the loss before when Islam was first revealed and women's rights were respected and they scrambled in panic to reestablish a strong patriarchy.But I am positive we will reclaim Islam. The truth by nature resurfaces.

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  3. which english trnslation do you reckon is the best? Ive been ploughing through Leila Baktirs and let me tell you its hard hard work and I find myself not understanding half of it :-(

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  4. I don't think there's one translation currently that completely satisfies me =/ Although Leila Baktir's comes close… There is also The Qur'an as It Explains Itself but unfortunately I think that's unavailable/really expensive.

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  5. its possible I am just thick ;-)I have Arberry's and Abdel Haleems and have just ordered Asads.One day I shall find 20 years to learn classical Arabaic inshallah

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  6. Squeeee! Thank you sister! Yes, from what I've matched up with the copy I own it seems to be the same.Riven, this isn't a translation by the way, it's more a translation and explanation in one. If you can't read and understand Arabic be sure to compare it to other translations.

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