Dialogue: Patriarchal biases have entered interpretations of the Quran, says expert

“Gender and Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran” aimed to enlighten participants about biases.

Sehrish Ali May 25, 2012


The biases against women that have seeped into interpretations of the Quran formed the crux of a dialogue at Kuch Khaas on Wednesday.

Conducted by Shareh Hussain, an independent development consultant, “Gender and Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran” aimed to educate and enlighten participants about these biases.

A slide show carried verses mainly from Surah Nisa. Hussain was prompt to point out the stark differences in their translations by scholars. One translation, for instance, interprets a verse as men have responsibility over women as they “may” be superior to women.

The use of the Arabic word “Qanikat” also sparked much debate, as some scholars interpret the word as a woman being devout to man, whereas Hussain pointed out that in Arabic the word devout has only been used for Allah (Allah’s devotees).

“It is important to look at a reign of translations and how it affects people and society,” said Hussain as she went on to highlight a translation from Quran which states: “Women are garments for you as you are garments for them.” This, she said, is a clear proof that men and women are equal.

As the lecture came to an end, Hussain stressed on the fact that the best example for Muslims is Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). It is a fact, she said, that he was courteous to all his wives.

During the question and answer round, some participants suggested that lawmakers and parliamentarians should be instructed on these topics, given that they play a pivotal role in lawmaking. Some voiced their opinions about the patriarchal traditions in the society, concluding that many people confuse their beliefs of Islam with their own societal traditions.

The dialogue participants concluded that the way to go forward is to firstly educate oneself, encourage dialogue and practice the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2012.

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