I just finished reading Amina Wadud’s book, “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective”, one of the few interpretations of the Qur’an done by a female that is widely available. She made a lot of amazing points but I’ll only mention a few here.
I believe the Qur’an adapts to the context of the modern woman as smoothly as it adapted to the original Muslim community fourteen centuries ago. Any interpretations which narrowly apply the Qur’anic guidelines to literal mimics of the original community do an injustice to the text. No community will ever be exactly like another. Therefore no community can be a duplicate of that original community. The Qur’an never states this as a goal. Rather, the goal has been to emulate certain key principles of human development: justice, equity, harmony, moral responsibility, spiritual awareness, and development. Where these general characteristics exist, whether in the first Muslim community or in present and future communities, the goal of the Qur’an for society has been reached.
I love the message she’s giving her: to focus on general characteristics of the Qur’an (some call it the spirit of the Qur’an) instead of only obsessing about specifics. Many Muslims today focus on dressing and living like the Prophet and his family/companions. Should this be something modern Islamic communities aim for? Or should we recognize that every community is different and the Qur’an is made for this diversity?
If readers of the Qur’an have assumed in any manner that men are superior to women intellectually, spiritually, ontologically, etc.; that men are “in charge of women”; that men are natural leaders; that men should “rule” the family and get obedience from women; that women do not have to participate and contribute in order to maintain the family and society or that her participation is marginal; then those readers will interpret the Qur’an in accordance with those assumptions.
In a previous post about interpreting the Qur’an, I mentioned that each person interprets the Qur’an according to their pre-existing beliefs and world view. Thus the assumptions Wadud mentions will influence someone reading the text.
I will post more from this book soon.