Islamic Scholarship is Patriarchal, Hence Illegitimate

“The vast majority of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) is from men. It reflects their sensibilities, their biases, their interests and, therefore, should be rejected by modern Muslims who have a sense of gender equality and do not want today’s Muslim women to be oppressed by rules that were developed without the input of women.”

Sorry to say, you will see this reasoning over and over and over again by Muslim feminists, reformers, and other confused people, so best to have a ready response. Here is a short and by no means exhaustive list of helpful talking points.

1. Of course, there were many thousands of female students and teachers historically learning and transmitting the sacred sciences alongside men. To assume that they had no impact on the study and development of fiqh is to cast these women as voiceless, powerless props in the backdrop of history, impotent victims perpetually taken advantage of by men generation after generation.

2. That being said, yes, the majority of Muslim scholars in the past were men. That is undeniable. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that affected the content and validity of their work. If you’re a Muslim, you also believe that all of revelation came through a man, namely the Prophet ﷺ. Does that mean that all of revelation is biased and inadmissible? Or consider that all of the framers of the US Constitution were men. The majority of physicists, engineers, scientists historically have been men. If we take this extreme perspective that whatever a person produces is ultimately reducible to his gender and is necessarily tainted with predatory gender bias and therefore oppressive to the other gender, then nothing will remain.

3. Saying that fiqh was produced by men and only reflects their sensibilities assumes that the scholars were operating in a vacuum without any influence or impact from the other women in their lives. What about their mothers, their wives, their daughters, etc.? We are to believe that historical Muslim men were so cold and oblivious and Muslim women were so naive and weak that fiqh could proceed with a systematic bias against women unimpeded for centuries. That is not a serious picture of history or a serious characterization of human nature. That is nothing more than a caricature based on the old Orientalist trope of the insecure Muslim man dominating his weak womenfolk.

Those are three easy points for now. If you have any of your own, feel free to share in the comments.

"The vast majority of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) is from men. It reflects their sensibilities, their biases, their…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Sunday, May 22, 2016

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