Archive | April 2012

HADITH ANSWERS: ARE WOMEN TOO “WEAK MINDED” TO MAKE A RELIABLE WITNESS?

Weak Translation of Hadith Misleads Readers: A Clarification of the Meaning of ‘Aql and Jariya

Introduction:

A woman as witness as been placed on trial by many orientalists and translators of hadith primarily due to limitation of the translator over both languages.

It becomes essential when translating that one understands not only the literal meaning with accuracy but also the context it is coming with. All those who study the Quran know that the Quran confirms itself in many references and the hadith is but a walking Quran in the form of Prophet Muhammad pbuh.

Our limitation as Muslims in understanding certain aspects of the hadith stems from a limitation in holding excellence in two languages i.e. Arabic and English.

DIFFICULTIES IN TRANSLATION

Some translations have hit the Internet in very hostile territory and I wanted to clear those misconceptions that come primarily from the translator’s choice of words rather than the actual meaning of the hadith.

HADITH ON WITNESSES (NUMBER 826 VOLUME 3, SECTIONS XVIII)

N his translation of Sahih Bukhari, Dr. Muhsin Khan translates hadith number 826 (in volume 3, section XVII, on Witnesses) as follows: “Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri. The Prophet said: ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The Women said, ‘Yes’. He said, “This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.”

The Arabic is fazalika min nuqsan-e-aqaleha, which should be translated as: “That is owing to her lack of understanding.”

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF AQL(aqaleha)

The translation of ‘Aql as “mind” is incorrect. The term “mind” is a platonic concept, which refers to innate ability. ‘Aql is the word for understanding, sense and wisdom which is acquired through experience and development of educational abilities. The mind is fixed and unchanging; Understanding can be developed. The term “mind” has to do with the idea that some people are born with intelligence and some are not: In its essence it is a racist concept.

HOW DOES THE QURAN DEFINE AQL?

We can try to define the meaning of the word “aql” by looking at its usage in the Qur’an. It is used to refer to ability which learns from observation and which works though experiencing the wonders of God’s creation:

And of His signs is this: He shows you the lightning for a fear and a hope, and sends down water from the sky, and thereby quickens the earth after its death. Surely in that are signs for people of understanding (liqaumin-yyaqiloon).

The Qur’an 30:24

And the difference of night and day and the provision that Allah sends down from the sky and thereby quickens the earth after her death, and the ordering of the winds, are signs for people of understanding (liqaumin-yyaqiloon).

Sura 45:5

These verses are meant for the general audience of the Qur’an. Anyone who is willing to use his understanding and look at the heavens and the earth can perceive the underlying power, which makes the universe possible. These verses are not aimed at some special elite, which has a “mind” which others lack. Certainly women are not excluded from the audience of these verses.

No honest commentator would be able to claim that the signs of God mentioned in these verses are not available to women because women are deficient in their “minds”! Any person, man or woman, can perceive the ayat (signs) of Allah and arrive at conclusions about God’s Oneness, Creativity, Power, and Nurturing Love.

Dr. Muhsin Khan does not  in his translation realize that the holy Prophet pbuh was actually urging the women to gain understanding. He was not saying that they are deficient by nature and will always remain so! When a teacher says to a student: Your understanding of the book is weak, you are deficient in your analysis; think, don’t cheat, etc; the teacher is actually urging the student to gain the understanding which he/she lacks. Islam came to educate people, to raise them from out of the marshes of ignorance, not to condemn them.

Had Dr. Muhsin Khan looked at other hadith in the same chapter of Bukhari’s Sahih, he would have realized two things:

1. The holy Prophet did not reject the witness of one woman even as opposed to a man’s.

2. He did not think that women are deficient in their minds.

DOCUMENTATION OF THE USE OF ONE WOMAN AS WITNESS

In hadith number 827 and 828 we are told that the holy Prophet abrogated a marriage on the basis of ONE WOMAN’S WITNESS who had testified that in their infancy she had suckled both the husband and the wife. The narration indicates that the male narrator did not want to accept the woman’s witnessing but the holy Prophet would not countenance his hesitation. (Incidentally the woman was black and a slave from the Era of Ignorance, which also indicates the revolutionary Islamic concepts of equality of all races and peoples along with equality of male and female.)

WITNESS OF ONE WOMAN IN THE CASE OF IFK

Further on in the same chapter of Bukhari’s Sahih, we have a lengthy narration of the slander which was spread against Hazrat ‘Ayesha (radi Allahu unha) by the hypocrites. In the narration we find Hazrat Ali urging the holy Prophet to ask for one woman’s witness and the holy Prophet going through the process of asking one woman without saying that two women are required. (The Qur’an then confirmed this witnessing by affirming the noble character of the blessed ‘Ayesha.) The words of the narration are:

“‘Ali ibn Abi Talib said: O messenger of Allah! Allah has not put restrictions on you, and there are many women other than she; yet you may ask the young woman (Barera) and she will tell you the truth.

On that the messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be on him, called Barera and asked her: ‘O Barera! Did you ever see anything, which raised your suspicion? Barera said: No. By Allah who has sent you with the Truth, I have never seen anything wrong in her except that she is young and sometimes sleeps after having kneaded the dough and the goat comes and eats it.

On that day the messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, stood up to give the khutba and asked the people to support him against Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul. The messenger of Allah said:

Who will support me against that person who has hurt me in the matter of my family? By Allah I know nothing but good about my family, and they have accused a man about whom I know nothing except good and he never entered my house except in my company.”

Those who have read their hadith books carefully know that Barera was a freed slave woman. In fact, she had been freed by Hazrat ‘Ayesha and used to spend her time with Hazrat ‘Ayesha as her companion, friend, and helper. In both hadith the Prophet accepts the witness of one woman, and the question of their ‘deficient mind’ is not raised. The reason for acceptance was that Islamic education had given women mental maturity and understanding. By the time the slander against Hazrat ‘Ayesha occurred, the Muslim community had strengthened its roots.

THE MECCAN ATMOSPHERE OF OPPRESSION WHENCE SURAH BAQARAH WAS REVEALED.

When the verse about two female witnesses was revealed in Sura al-Baqarah, the Islamic community had just begun in Medina. Our male commentators have built their weak position on Sura al-Baqarah while completely ignoring Surat un-Noor where Hazrat ‘Ayesha’s example was used by Allah to indicate the equality of males and females before the Law for all times to come.

UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF JARIYA

Dr. Muhsin Khan has also erred in his translation of the word jariya. He translates it as “woman-servant” which though better than laundi (female slave), as some Urdu language translators put it, is still off the mark. The word jariya simply means a young woman or girl. Barera was not a slave or a servant. (Bukhari’s Sahih attests that the holy Prophet’s household did not have a servant, male or female) She had been freed by Hazrat ‘Ayesha.

It escaped Dr. Khan that the word jariya occurs three times in hadith 829 referring to hazrat ‘Ayesha herself. (As Hazrat ‘Ayesha points out, she was a young woman at that time and weighed very little; hence the camel driver did not know if she was sitting in the curtained seat atop the camel or not and moved on without her.) Thank goodness that Dr. Khan does not claim that Hazrat ‘Ayesha was a slave girl too! I hope he will look up the story of Barera and find out that she had been freed. (Freed slaves often lived with those who had freed them in a system of wilayya because they had no family systems of their own.)

THE TRANSLATORS LIMITATION IN CHOICE OF WORDS

Readers should notice how many different factors could come in to create misgivings and misunderstanding about Hadith. We all have much to learn. Those who are translating holy books into English are often quite deficient in their English. The language of the people is an essential vehicle for the dissemination of a message. The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic to a people who spoke Arabic. Similarly, people who can speak and understand the idiom of the American people must convey Islam in America.

Translation by Yusuf Ali
Had We sent this as a Qur’an (in the language) other than Arabic, they would have said: “Why are not its verses explained in detail? What! (a Book) not in Arabic and (a Messenger an Arab?” Say: “It is a Guide and a Healing to those who believe; and for those who believe not, there is a deafness in their ears, and it is blindness in their (eyes): They are (as it were) being called from a place far distant!

The Qur’an 41:44

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MUSLIM WOMEN HADITH SCHOLARS: AI’SHA BINT ABDULLAH AT TABARI

Ai’sha bint Abdullah at-Tabari was a Hadith scholar and historian. She transmitted from her grandfather and uncle with an ijaza.

She wrote a book about the History of at-Tabari

(She died after 776/1375)

Excerpted from: MUSLIM WOMEN: A Biographical Dictionary by Aisha Bewley

HOW TO TREAT YOUR WOMEN: HADITH: INSTRUCTIONS FROM OUR PROPHET PBUH

Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him in his last Khutbah given in Arafa said:

Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.

WHO WAS IMAM BUKHARI?

Imam Bukhari: The Giant of Hadith Scholarship who stands in way of Attempts to Misinterpret the Qur’an

An Introduction:  for those coming into the faith or rediscovering it again.

Imam Bukhari’s Mausoleum

Shawwal 13 is the anniversary of Imam Bukhari’s birth in 194 Hijri. His name is Muhammad and he was known as Abu Abdullah.

SAMARKAND: 28 MILES FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF IMAM BUKHARI: Courtesy: http://ansmagazine.com/Spring07/Bukhara

“Bukhari” refers to his place of birth, the city of Bukhara, located in Tajikistan, 38 miles west of Samarkand.

I’ll begin with two authentic Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) collected by Imam Bukhari . These teachings are very important in the Islamic culture around the world:

HADITH

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

The messenger of Allah was asked: Who is deserving of loving care and concern? He (the Prophet) replied:

YOUR MOTHER. And then whom (he was asked). He said:

Your MOTHER. And then? (he was asked) Your Mother (he said). And then? (The questioner continued). He said:

Your father.

(Al-adab al-mufrad by Imam Bukhari)

(Abi Bakra, Allah be pleased with him, narrates about Prophet Muhammad, pbuh):

He said:

Your blood, your goods and your honor are as much protected and safe (forever) as is this day (of Arafa) in this month (of Hajj). Be aware and those of you who are here (today) should pass this on to those who are not here.

(Sahih of Imam Bukhari)

The revolutionary impact of these teachings can be understood if one realizes that Arabia (and the world) was a male dominated society in which there was no concept of basic human rights. The first Hadith puts a woman (the mother) as three times more important than the dominant male. The second hadith gives the protection of Islamic law to life, property and honor (especially the rights of women) and makes these rights as sacred as the holiest days of the Islamic pilgrimage.

Who was the man who made sure that these were authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and hence teachings which must be integral to any Islamic community?

Abu Abdullah Muhammad, son of Ismail, al-Bukhari was sharp of intellect with a memory which has had few equals. HE MEMORIZED THE ENTIRE QUR’AN at the AGE OF 9. At the age of 10, he turned his attention to the study of Hadith. At the age of 16, following the performance of Hajj, he decided to stay in Makkah and make the holy city the center of his studies.

A remarkable fact about Imam Bukhari’s early life is that his basic teacher was his mother, a woman of great learning and Islamic awareness. His father Ismail was also an Islamic teacher of piety and learning but he died when the Imam was little.

As he forayed into his study, research and collection of Hadith, Imam Bukhari studied in the schools of Hadith led by the greatest teachers of his era. Later, he himself became the teacher of the greatest scholars of his era. His final book of Hadith, known as al-jami us-Sahih, has been recognized around the world as a source book of Islam SECOND ONLY TO THE QU’RAN.

At that time Islam was a world power and the great and the powerful wanted to use the Qur’an and the Hadith to support their own version of Islam. The last of the SAHABA (companions of the Prophet) died in the year 110 after Hijrah. Hence the possibility of people misquoting the Prophet became very real.

Imam Bukhari’s mosque madrassah complex in Smarkand Bukhara

Imam Bukhari understood that sponsorship by vested interests is detrimental to objective Islamic teachings. HENCE THE IMAM STAYED STRICTLY AWAY FROM THE POWER STRUCTURE. He was never a servant or courtier of any ruler, local, regional or national.

Secondly, IMAM BUKHARI AVOIDED USING HIS KNOWLEDGE TO ENRICH HIMSELF. Like Allama Iqbal in our own times, he seemed to have lived in the light of a (not so well authenticated) hadith of the Prophet that:

“Poverty is my pride.” This is a self-imposed poverty for the sake of independence and openness to all ways of thinking beyond the “party line.”

He would earn his living by trade and as a merchant and then would give away his profits, thus returning to his meager means. On some of his journeys, he almost died of starvation rather than beg the local bigwigs for help.

In his research on Hadith, he set standards, which are stricter than any known even in our own times of immediate technologically available information. Some of these need to be mentioned here:

 STANDARD FOR RESEARCH ON HADITH SET BY IMAM BUKHARI

1. Did a person who narrated Hadith from a Companion of the Prophet actually meet the Companion, and was that Companion with the Prophet in such-and-such incident?

2. What was the character of a narrator of Hadith?

3. What was his/her memory like? What was his/her age at the time of narration?

4. Was the chain of narrators complete, had a missing link in it or was it fabricated?

5. Which Hadith are linked to which verses of the Qur’an?

6. Sometimes partisans can speak the truth. How does one accept Hadith from narrators who were Shi’ite, Khariji or pro-Caliph?

7. Honest collection of Hadith if objective rules apply but the content is not appealing. (Thus the Hadith literature is an uncensored account of how the SAHABA saw, heard and thought of the Prophet and his era. It leaves critical commentary to scholars and application/implementation to mujtahideen who use their reason to understand the Qur’an and the Hadith.)

FALSE IDEAS ABOUT IMAM BUKHARI

Some people have been spreading doubts about Hadith. Goldziher and Schacht’s work against Hadith has been fed into missionary publications. From here some sincere but mislead Muslim scholars picked up the attack on Hadith. One important misled but sincere person was Ghulam Ahmed Pervez who wrote extensively against Hadith. Dr. Fazlur Rahman sincerely believed that the ISNAD or chains of narration of Hadith had been invented in the third century of Islam. His work gained popularity among western-educated Muslims till Dr. Azmi published his research which showed not only authenticity of ISNAD but also that Hadith was written down in every era of early Islam, starting with the time of the Prophet and the Sahaba.

Some misled sectarians believe that Bukhari’s Hadith narration was meant to help the Ummayed rulers who had, according to the sectarian line, “usurped the right of Hazrat Ali” to be the Caliph. This idea is totally absurd because Imam Bukhari was not alive during the entire Ummayad dynasty. The Umayyad’s ruled Rajab 60 hijri to zulhijjah 132 hijri and 4 years of turmoil after that. Imam Bukhari was born in 194. So he could not have been influenced by the political power of the “ruling Ummayads.”

There are others who see traces of Shi’ism in Imam Bukhari’s collection. These again are off the mark. The Abbasids established their regime in 136. When the greatest Abbasid, Haroon ar-Rasheed, began his rule, Imam Bukhari’s birth was still one year away. When the powerful Mammon ar-Rasheed was ruling, Imam Bukhari had just started his studies and had moved to Makkah, which was outside the Baghdad orbit of Abbasid influence.

Some misled people believe that most Hadith must have been false and hence Imam Bukhari selected so few out of “six million.” This idea is based on total lack of understanding of Hadith. In Hadith studies, not only the matan (the text) of what the Prophet said but also each chain of narration (sanad) of that hadith counts as one hadith. Thus the first text in Bukhari’s SAHIH:

“Actions shall be judged by intentions …” had 700 chains of narration; hence in Hadith literature that one text would count as 700 hadith.

Some people justify their own ignorance. They think that Imam Bukhari was a narrator of Hadith, which he was not. He was a researcher, compiler and collector.

Still others attack Imam Bukhari to INDIRECTLY ABUSE, INSULT and DISCREDIT the sahaba (again a sectarian hand is often at work here). How come Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrated so many hadith? Didn’t he live in Ameer Muawiyyah’s palace? Etc. The life of the Prophet (pbuh) (other than what Imam Bukhari compiled) shows that Abu Huraira used to spend a maximum of his time listening to and collecting the teachings of the Prophet, memorizing and writing down, while others lived more “normal” lives.

Hazrat ‘Ayesha R.A., Abu Huraira and other mukassirin (those who have narrated many hadith of the Prophet), lived for far more years than some of the key figures among the Prophet’s companions. They were asked questions by newcomers who were flooding into Islam and hence taught much more. Other greats like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali (Allah be pleased with them) were not available to so many people after the Prophet died. The last three were assassinated. Hence owing to historical reasons, some narrators narrated more than others.

Ships of the desert: Courtesy: http://images.travelpod.com

Some readers among our westernized elites object to the pre-scientific and pre-“modern” lifestyle, which often appears in the Hadith literature including that of Imam Bukhari. The Prophet had to go out into the desert to urinate, etc. The Prophet bathed out of a bucket along with his wife (shocking! eh). The Prophet talked about women’s menses and women among his companions talked about Muslim’s duties related to sex and “private” life. On expeditions when food ran out, the Muslims had to decide whether to eat lizards. The Prophet had fine tastes but did not want his companions to starve. What happens if a fly falls into a bucket full of food or solid shortening? Worse, what if a rat falls in? Should the entire food supply be thrown away? (In a culture of scarcity).

Also many readers find Hadith irksome simply because they don’t want to study patiently. They rush to the assumption that the headlines provided by Imam Bukhari are also Hadith. Or they take it that the words of a Sahabi and the words of the Prophet are supposedly of equal value because they are in Sahih Bukhari.

Where Imam Bukhari provides a narration which shows the low esteem in which women were held at that time and then a narration from the blessed ‘Ayesha which shows the Prophet changing those attitudes with his authoritative words, our misled anti-Hadith people do not see the connection and consider it a “contradiction.” It applies to wartime lack of rules in those days (taking slaves, taking part-time mistresses, muta’, temporary marriage, etc.). The misled people see the narration about what used to happen and DO NOT SEE what the Prophet did to stop them and how he went about it stage by stage.

Scholarship of HADITH of course preceded Imam Bukhari and he was one of a galaxy of greats, even though the greatest. I am presenting Imam Bukhari because the misled people think they can destroy the entire corpus of Hadith by attacking Imam Bukhari.

I offer this article to the Ummah with all humility. If you like it, please distribute it. If you find errors, do let me know.

And Allah is the only One Who knows all

BOOK REVIEW: THE STRUGGLE OF MUSLIM WOMEN

 READERS COMMENT:
An ageless book that is as relevant and hot read as was when it was first published “raising muslim women so high that the gardens of jannah lie at her feet”
BOOK REVIEW
By Salik
Format:Paperback
This is an unusual book that started others down the road of “Islamic Feminism”. From that standpoint it can be considered the mother source for later publications in this area. Later authors writing on this subject owe a significant debt to this book,and generally do not acknowledge it.
For example the author of the new translation of the Quran,Abdel Haleem, in his otherwise informative book, Understanding the Quran, appears to have used the same material in the discussion of nushuz and maruuf, however no reference is made to precedent setting work of Dr. Siddique in this area.

This slim book provides direct reference to Quranic and authentic Hadith sources that reveal a view of highly enlightened and mutually respectful relationship between genders in Islam.

Using those sources, the author hammers home his point. He argues that the Prophet of Islam taught that relationships are based on mutual consultation, respect, and that obedience is only to God, and obedience even to the Prophet was only in righteousness (maruuf).
Further, in the eyes of God stratification is based on taqwa (goodness) rather than gender or social status, etc. He points out the nature of gradual revelation of the Quran and that the final verses related to gender address both men and women directly and the desirable moral atributes for both genders are the same. No other divine scripture directly addresses men and women in this regard. Pointing this out is an original contribution of the author.Over all this book provides a hugely different picture from that painted in the media and in books by miso-lslamic orientalists, and by Islamophobes with political agenda, who put out propaganda pulp on current affairs, such as Emerson and Brodansky.

This book was published 20 years ago, much before Islam and Muslims were under the microscope, and is in need of revision, on account of some dated material. It also requires a more extensive discussion of some of the material and sources and differing opinions amongst interpreters. The binding and publication is not optimal.

The material in this book deserves 5 stars, but the binding and print detract from it, so I have rated it at 4 stars

COMMENT ON AMAZON .COM:  Natasha D. Almonor says:
I am an African American woman who never would have converted to Islam had I not been convinced of its just stance on gender equity. I read this book approximately twenty years ago and am considering bringing it to a Muslim women’s class I’ve just joined. I am so glad to learn of Abdel Haleem’s translation of the Quran. Still not fluent in Arabic, I often wonder about how gender bias might have influenced the translations and commentaries I read. Thanks for your review.
AVAILABLE FROM THE AUTHOR (hadithand women@gmail.com) AND AMAZON 

AISHA BINT ABU BAKR: A Great Woman in Hadith

A great woman in Hadith.

AISHA R.A, (may Allah be pleased with her (r.a.), daughter of Abu Bakr, r.a, wife of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh.

The anniversary of AISHA Siddiqa [r.a] was on Ramadan 17. Most Muslims do NOT remember this important date.

Their forgetfulness shows the significance of the gender problem in the minds of colonized Muslims.

‘Aisha, R.A., is one of the greatest Muslim woman in the history of Islam. Forgetting her means that our Islamic understanding is very fragmented and incomplete.

Here are a few points about her, which are available in authentic hadith:

1. Daughter of Abu Bakr, R.A., wife of the Muhammad Mustafa, pbuh, cherished and honored by both. The angel Gabriel brought her picture to Muhammad, pbuh, and this led to the marriage.

2. Greatest narrator of Hadith especially in the quality of Hadith about the life of the Prophet, pbuh, and among the top in number of Hadith transmitted.

3. Greatest Faqih in Islam. Even senior male sahaba sought her rulings on issues of Islamic Law.

4. Leader of Muslim women. Led Muslim women in prayers as their Imam.

5. Leader of Muslim men, particularly at the Battle of the Camel where her army included sahaba and reciters of the Qur’an.

6 Through her Allah Almighty gave women their rights.

6a. For instance, the Qur’an condemns men who gossip about women and who try character assassination if a Muslim woman is alone with a man.

[The Qur’an 24:11-20.] [These are the strongest verses in the Qur’an on social reform.]

6b. Through her, the stigma attached to menstruating women [perpetuated by Judaism] was clarified by the Qur’an [2:222]. Muhammad, pbuh, in Hadith, condemned this stigma. As opposed to the Jews, the Prophet, pbuh, taught men to show physical love for their menstruating wives, caress and kiss them, do everything short of actual intercourse.

{Hadith in Sahih Muslim, Sunan of Abu Dawud, Jami’ of Tirmidhi, Sunan of Nasai.}

6c. When she temporarily lost her necklace in the desert, Allah ordained tayammum [ablution for prayer without water], a great blessing because prayer ON TIME is obligatory.[4:43]

6d. Through her the Qur’an ordained that the woman’s CHOICE and CONSENT in marriage is essential even in the case of the Prophet, pbuh, himself.

[Quran 33:28-29]

7. The enemies of Islam attacked Aisha, r.a., and do so now, because she was wedded to the Prophet, pbuh, as a child. They don’t know that ‘Ayesha, r.a., accepted the Prophet, pbuh, when she grew up. She was his student and asked him key questions and thus became the Mother of the Believers. She lived for decades after the Prophet, pbuh, and spent her life in spreading the sublime message he had brought. People came from far away lands to listen to her. Her students, male and female, became leaders of Islamic thought.

8. She was the greatest orator of her time and an excellent poet and genealogist. During her campaign against the murderers of Usman, R.A., she spoke in public on 24 consecutive days and helped many supporters of the killers to repent.

9. All the Sahaba [Companions] of Muhammad, pbuh, were people of great piety and worship of Allah and diligent in helping the needy and the downtrodden, but even among them she stands out as extraordinary.

10. Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, died with his head in her lap after having asked the rest of his large family to let him spend his last days in her room.

Dear Muslims, wake up and recognize the Mother of the Believers. Islam is not male oriented. It is from Allah and Allah loves those who have Taqwa, regardless of gender.

K.Siddique PhD

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