قضية المرأة بين سندان الحداثة ومطرقة التقاليد: دراسة في تاريخ النصوص / Women's Question Between the Hammer of Modernity and the Anvil of Traditions: A Study in the History of Texts



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أبو زيد, نصر حامد; Abu-Zeid, Nasr Hamid

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The article argues that the woman's issue cannot be separated from the social setting. As religion is considered a legislative, legal, moral and spiritual reference point in Arab Islamic societies, it effectively penetrates the framework of dealing with the woman's question. The socio-political scene with the continuous Arab defeats have led to re-posing questions that are related to identity and cultural specificity. Imperialism and the hegemony of one super power have firmly established double standards that restrict the people of the Third World and have reproduced a distorted version of Islam as being an enemy to humanity and gender equity. Thus, external defeats and internal pressures confirmed the rise of a hegemonic discourse that excludes and marginalizes, and in which women's oppression is doubled. On one hand, this feeling of being oppressed is transformed into condemning the Other and gathering around the Islamic discourse which attacks the imperialist West. On the other hand, this sense of oppression is reoriented toward the Self, and hence it victimizes the weaker and the marginalized, and develops a sectarian and ethnocentric attitude instead of struggling against the real enemy. The article explores the new questions that deal with the status of woman, her role and the restrictive indictments that are issued in the Islamic world in general and in Egypt in particular. In this way, it distinguishes between the inherited traditions and the Islamic shari'a (Islamic canonical law) while introducing examples where culture and religion are confused. The article clarifies the difference between jurisprudence and religion in the shari'a terminology by going back to the origin of the word shara'a (to enact, prescribe) in the Quran and also to the overall Quranic intent. The author finds out that in the practical application, the faqih (theologian) or the mufti (official expounder of Islamic law) and his sayings are considered a reference in all matters. Thus, the discussion becomes contained in the cycle of "interpretation" and "counter-interpretation," without taking into account the context with its different registers. Furthermore, the Western news agencies publicize the religious decrees that prohibit women's work and their mobility outside the house in the framework of a campaign that distorts the image of Islam and Muslims. In opposition to this, the article discusses the ideas of Muslim thinkers that called for the participation of women with men in the domain of religious practices and social and political work, and who emphasized the rights of women in Islam. In addition, the article calls for using a contextual reading that springs out of the methodologies of "principles of jurisprudence" on the one hand, and, on the other hand, that can interact with the efforts of leading thinkers (Muhammad 'Abduh and Amin al-Khuli) of the Islamic renaissance in order to consolidate the woman's status. The researcher relies on the science of 'asbab al-nuzul, "The Occasions of Revelation," while distinguishing between meaning and significance. It is essential that the significance is derived from the meaning and closely linked to it exactly as the cause and effect are connected. The significance should in no way be an expression of the interpreter's preferences. The article takes into account the sequence of revelations, the narrative context, and the linguistic structure. It also distinguishes between the polemic and the descriptive registers in verses related to women in particular. It concludes that the preference of men over women is not a prescription but a description of a certain state, and it contains what supports and stresses equality between man and woman in Islam. It illustrates this by referring to the concepts of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and veil while elucidating the context and citing what was said before by Muhammad 'Abduh, in addition to vindicating the statements of some who advocate the inferiority of women in relation to men; and hence demonstrating the principle of equality between men and women in Islam. The article finds in this contextual close reading a more genuine approach to the Quran and the sunna (Islamic binding precedence) than selectivity, i.e. emphasizing the texts that serve the interpreter's purpose as "the original" and interpreting the texts that oppose his purpose in a way that dismisses their significance. Throughout this study, the researcher points to the intersection of international and national conditions that prevent scholarly dialogue and conceptualization, and hence lead to projections that deprive women of fully practicing their humanistic role. He also presents a methodology for textual reading that permits a deeper understanding concerning woman's question in the Quran and the sunna.]

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