A Secret History

February 25, 2007 - Leave a Response


For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the stock image of an Islamic scholar is a gray-bearded man. Women tend to be seen as the subjects of Islamic law rather than its shapers. And while some opportunities for religious education do exist for women — the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo has a women’s college, for example, and there are girls’ madrasas and female study groups in mosques and private homes — cultural barriers prevent most women in the Islamic world from pursuing such studies. Recent findings by a scholar at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in Britain, however, may help lower those barriers and challenge prevalent notions of women’s roles within Islamic society. Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a 43-year-old Sunni alim, or religious scholar, has rediscovered a long-lost tradition of Muslim women teaching the Koran, transmitting hadith (deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and even making Islamic law as jurists.

Akram embarked eight years ago on a single-volume biographical dictionary of female hadith scholars, a project that took him trawling through biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles and letters for relevant citations. “I thought I’d find maybe 20 or 30 women,” he says. To date, he has found 8,000 of them, dating back 1,400 years, and his dictionary now fills 40 volumes. It’s so long that his usual publishers, in Damascus and Beirut, have balked at the project, though an English translation of his preface — itself almost 400 pages long — will come out in England this summer. (Akram has talked with Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the United States, about the possibility of publishing the entire work through his Riyadh-based foundation.)

The dictionary’s diverse entries include a 10th-century Baghdad-born jurist who traveled through Syria and Egypt, teaching other women; a female scholar — or muhaddithat — in 12th-century Egypt whose male students marveled at her mastery of a “camel load” of texts; and a 15th-century woman who taught hadith at the Prophet’s grave in Medina, one of the most important spots in Islam. One seventh-century Medina woman who reached the academic rank of jurist issued key fatwas on hajj rituals and commerce; another female jurist living in medieval Aleppo not only issued fatwas but also advised her far more famous husband on how to issue his.

Not all of these women scholars were previously unknown. Many Muslims acknowledge that Islam has its learned women, particularly in the field of hadith, starting with the Prophet’s wife Aisha. And several Western academics have written on women’s religious education. About a century ago, the Hungarian Orientalist Ignaz Goldziher estimated that about 15 percent of medieval hadith scholars were women. But Akram’s dictionary is groundbreaking in its scope.

Indeed, read today, when many Muslim women still don’t dare pray in mosques, let alone lecture leaders in them, Akram’s entry for someone like Umm al-Darda, a prominent jurist in seventh-century Damascus, is startling. As a young woman, al-Darda used to sit with male scholars in the mosque, talking shop. “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around, debating other scholars.” She went on to teach hadith and fiqh, or law, at the mosque, and even lectured in the men’s section; her students included the caliph of Damascus. She shocked her contemporaries by praying shoulder to shoulder with men — a nearly unknown practice, even now — and issuing a fatwa, still cited by modern scholars, that allowed women to pray in the same position as men.

It’s after the 16th century that citations of women scholars dwindle. Some historians venture that this is because Islamic education grew more formal, excluding women as it became increasingly oriented toward establishing careers in the courts and mosques. (Strangely enough, Akram found that this kind of exclusion also helped women become better scholars. Because they didn’t hold official posts, they had little reason to invent or embellish prophetic traditions.)

Akram’s work has led to accusations that he is championing free mixing between men and women, but he says that is not so. He maintains that women students should sit at a discreet distance from their male classmates or co-worshipers, or be separated by a curtain. (The practice has parallels in Orthodox Judaism.) The Muslim women who taught men “are part of our history,” he says. “It doesn’t mean you have to follow them. It’s up to people to decide.”

Neverthless, Akram says he hopes that uncovering past hadith scholars could help reform present-day Islamic culture. Many Muslims see historical precedents — particularly when they date back to the golden age of Muhammad — as blueprints for sound modern societies and look to scholars to evaluate and interpret those precedents. Muslim feminists like the Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi and Kecia Ali, a professor at Boston University, have cast fresh light on women’s roles in Islamic law and history, but their worldview — and their audiences — are largely Western or Westernized. Akram is a working alim, lecturing in mosques and universities and dispensing fatwas on issues like inheritance and divorce. “Here you’ve got a guy who’s coming from the tradition, who knows the stuff and who’s able to give us that level of detail which is missing in the self-proclaimed progressive Muslim writers,” says James Piscatori, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University.

The erosion of women’s religious education in recent times, Akram says, reflects “decline in every aspect of Islam.” Flabby leadership and a focus on politics rather than scholarship has left Muslims ignorant of their own history. Islam’s current cultural insecurity has been bad for both its scholarship and its women, Akram says. “Our traditions have grown weak, and when people are weak, they grow cautious. When they’re cautious, they don’t give their women freedoms.”

When Akram lectures, he dryly notes, women are more excited by this history than men. To persuade reluctant Muslims to educate their girls, Akram employs a potent debating strategy: he compares the status quo to the age of al jahiliya, the Arabic term for the barbaric state of pre-Islamic Arabia. (Osama Bin Laden and Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of modern Islamic extremism, have employed the comparison to very different effect.) Barring Muslim women from education and religious authority, Akram argues, is akin to the pre-Islamic custom of burying girls alive. “I tell people, ‘God has given girls qualities and potential,’ ” he says. “If they aren’t allowed to develop them, if they aren’t provided with opportunities to study and learn, it’s basically a live burial.”

When I spoke with him, Akram invoked a favorite poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray’s 18th-century lament for dead English farmers. “Gray said that villagers could have been like Milton,” if only they’d had the chance, Akram observes. “Muslim women are in the same situation. There could have been so many Miltons.”

Carla Power is a London-based journalist who writes about Islamic issues.



Eye-Opening video of the Human Race and how Fast Information is Growing

February 25, 2007 - One Response

One of the most intresting videos I have ever seen.

Pastor with 666 tattoo claims divinity…

February 19, 2007 - 5 Responses

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a minister, says he is God. De Jesus preaches that there is no devil and no sin. His church claims thousands of members in more than 30 countries, who mark themselves with 666, the mark of the beast. [CNN]

Hilarious. Personally, I don’t think this is news, its just intresting to see such malarky. Follow the citation to read up on what he says. By the way, he claiming to be God, or trinity or w/e, also claims the ANTI christ to be GOOD. He also drives a lexus with a rolex on his wrist…hmm, how would we ever find out the truth, oh yes, rationality.

Talal Badru Alayna

February 15, 2007 - 5 Responses

[odeo http://odeo.com/audio/8878633/view%5D

Download it for free here!

Bush: I’m Sending More Troops…

January 14, 2007 - Leave a Response

This week, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a resolution requiring President Bush to gain new congressional authorization before escalating the War in Iraq.

President Bush, however, says that he is going to send more troops to Iraq no matter what Congress does. Watch an excerpt from his 60 Minutes interview tonight … [Here]

Hamas calls for Palestinian unity

January 14, 2007 - Leave a Response

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of the ruling Palestinian movement Hamas has urged national unity after weeks of deadly feuding. He went on TV to say that Palestinian infighting, which has claimed about 30 lives, was utterly unacceptable. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the rival Fatah party, made a similar appeal two days ago. Meanwhile, government workers called off a strike over unpaid wages, saying they had been assured of payment. Mr Haniya called on the Arab League to implement its promise to break the Western- and Israeli-led economic embargo, which has prevented the government from paying its employees’ wages.

[Cite: BBC NEWS]

Shi’ism Exposed

January 14, 2007 - One Response

(Book) Introduction:

The entire edifice of Shi`ism is raised on the single basis of HATRED FOR THE SAHAABAH of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Right from the inception of Islam to this day, there has not been a Kaafir, including Rushdie, who has displayed so much hatred and who has spat so much venom and vituperation against the Sahaabah. The Ummah has not seen such implacable foes of the Sahaabah as the Shiahs, whose wird and wazeefah are ‘la-nat’ for the Sahaabah (radhiallahu anhum).

In Shi`i ideology da`wah is directed only towards the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama`ah — the followers of the Sahaabah. The Shi`i concept of dawah and tableegh does not bring Kuffaar, i.e. other Kuffaar besides the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jam`ah, who are ‘Kuffaar’ according to Shi`ism, within its ambit. It is for this reason that history has not observed any Shiah muballigheen inviting Kuffaar in general to Islam. That is because Shiahs have no true Islam to follow. The thrust of their ‘tableegh’ is directed to only the Ahlus Sunnah whom they conspire to convert to Shi`ism by intrigue, corruption, fitnah and deception.

In the chain of deception which Shiahs had originated from the earliest time of their birth is the publication of falsehood in the attempt to lure ignorant and unwary Sunnis into their fold. Every now and again, especially since the rise of Khomeini`ism, books and pamphlets containing all their falsehood are circulated to deceive the Ahlus Sunnah. A variety of stratagems is employed in their literature to make their falsehood palatable to ignorant members of the Ahlus Sunnah. This category – ignorant members of the Ahlus Sunnah – constitutes the most fertile ground for planting the seeds of Shi`i schisms and the baatil of their religion.

In this book which has been prepared by the Fadhl of Allah Ta`ala, most of the falsehood, slanders, fabrications and accusations against Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiallahu anhum) are answered. It is essential that the followers of the Sahaabah study this book carefully to ensure that they are equipped with adequate knowledge to rebut the slanders and calumnies of those whose chief occupation is to revile the Sahaabah. May Allah Ta`ala accept this humble effort of these sinful servants who have pledged to protect the honour of the noble Sahaabah and of Islam.

Muharram 1421
April 2000

[Cite: Shi’ism Exposed (Entire Book)]

Possible hate speech by Christian Group

January 14, 2007 - Leave a Response

Canadian Muslims demand Gov. Intervention in possible hate speech by Christian group

    I hope someone would organize talks titled something like “Be afraid, be very afraid: The frightening facts about Christian right extremism.” I would definitely attend because I’m really scared. For your info, this site talks about the similarities and differences of Islam and Christianity.


[Read the Rest: Chinese in Vancouver]