Oh hello. I just remembered I have a site.
This month I’ve been having to quietly confront a lot of the tedious issues in the Islamic community regarding gender equality in everything from back entrances to whom is served first and what portions during the communal breaking of the fast at the mosque. All the fortitude I can muster is hardly enough. I’m reluctant to say I’ve just been avoiding it all.
Serene solitude and examining the context of the Qur’an instead has provided me the opportunity to return to exploring some of the thematic questions that have arisen in previous contexts—namely, the beginning of creation and the perplexity embedded in verse 4:1.
Who created you from a single Self
Created, of similar nature,
its mate and from them twain
scattered like seeds
countless men and women;–
through Whom ye demand
your mutual rights. (Qur’an 4:1)
When addressing the concept of Lilith in Islam, the ramifications of the evolution of woman sprung from the foundation offered in this verse: that Hawwa was not created from Adam’s rib, that woman is not stated as the secondary creation following the creation of man, and that Adam is not for certain disclosed as the male variant in the couple as his name is synonymous with humankind and both variants maintained androgyny until they ate from the forbidden tree. When God commands Adam to live with Hawwa (spouse) in Paradise, the denoting pronoun is masculine, which is engaged to indicate Adam’s maleness. This is, however, ostensibly a gross inconsistency in interpretation: if Adam has no sex before consuming the forbidden fruit, then the Quranic employment of the masculine pronoun is merely a grammatical one. After all, the masculine is linguistically used to encompass both sexes, while the feminine is grammatically specific and culturally “alternative”—and yet when the word Nafs (Self) is used it is not interpreted by scholars to signify the creation of woman as first (specifically) or as the default (though it is true even biologically). Yet the masculine pronoun, which conventionally encompasses both sexes, is interpreted to suggest that Adam must be specifically male—an operational and running discrepancy.
Gramatically Nafs cannot be masculine, and this contests the typical use of the feminine as specific or alternative excusably. I am not suggesting that female was the primary creation—I think it is important to remember that the Qur’an does not make this distinction at all, and therefore it is theologically unimportant. Unfortunately it is not, however, societally unimportant. A history of interpreting this verse as to twist the meaning of even a blatantly egalitarian message is evidence of this. As Muslims have absurdly also adopted the Christian perspective that Eve was created from Adam’s rib with the supposition that it is merely further detail and does not violate the Qur’an (I would violently disagree) the emphasis cannot be strong enough. In fact, the idea Eve has been created from Adam’s rib serves “confirmation” for all kinds of injustices, including an explanation of why men have the power to divorce unilaterally (they don’t) because women are worth half of every provisional right and of bodily autonomy (we aren’t.)
“Of similar nature” is often translated as “of the same essence” which once more redirects us to the concept of some sort of original—whether that original was split in two of sides rather than the rib (the feminist Jewish exegesis) and whether this was simultaneous, or whether one is truly of another is a matter of analyzing language. If the mates are from the same essence or spirit, then the creation of one was not complete before the creation of another—and therefore suggesting the creation was simultaneous. This is conviction is unbiblical—it is the Qur’an—but has been overridden for Biblical interpretation, and only for the most misogynist among them. While Muslim theologians, viewing the Qur’an as a correction of preceding Revelations, have in the past borrowed from these previous Revelations to apply to Islamic theology and clarify Quranic concepts as long as the derivations do not contradict the Qur’an or hadith, the particular extracted components are overwhelmingly choosily sexist. The Jewish feminist exegesis of the word for “rib” originally meaning “side” (tsela) is much closer to the Quranic truth yet has been disregarded in mainstream understanding lest Eve be rendered Adam’s theological equal and challenge the foundation of Islamic jurisprudence set by patriarchal interpretations.
Thematically the Quranic attitude toward the sexes is no different from its attitude toward other contrary—but not contradictory—elements: that seemingly polar principles are not independent exclusives—rather, “dualistic contraries” exist within an internally differentiated dynamic unity. All aspects are interconnected in the entirety and in their influence encompass the whole.
Eve’s influence, and the search for her seemingly comparatively absent voice, is the unraveling of a power constrained by a history of patriarchal projections.
But we will find her once again. Her projected insignificance is only a patriarchal illusion.