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Progressive(ly) Dishonest: The Lies Of Progressive Muslamic Academia


“Islam and Girls” (and each attainable tangent that has the potential to fall inside this class) is an eternally scorching matter, recurrently pontificated about by conventional Islamic academics, the common Muslim layperson, and a particular breed of oldsters that make up progressive Muslim academia. How every group handles the topic, and their impression on wider Muslim discourses, is price a thesis in its personal proper; this essay will focus particularly on progressive Muslim academia and the unlucky development of mental dishonesty that they repeatedly make the most of in an effort to additional their very own agenda. Particularly, we are going to study an excerpt from Aisha Geissinger’s paper “Feminine Figures, Marginality, and Qurʾanic Exegesis in Ibn al-Jawzī’s Sifat al-Safwa,” and the blatantly twisted interpretation of an anecdote that includes the famed Tabi’iyyah scholar Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) as a case research.

Geissinger claims to delve into the difficulty of girls’s tafseer of the Qur’an (or lack thereof) by highlighting 4 anecdotes talked about inside the classical scholar Ibn al-Jawzi’s e-book “Sifat al-Safwa.” The second incident that she relays is about Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), and an interplay that she had with a number of male college students; she then goes on to provide her commentary, as follows:

“Āṣim al-Aḥwal mentioned: We used to go to Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn. She had placed on her over-garment [jilbāb] like this, and veiled her face with it.

So we mentioned to her: “Could God have mercy on you! God has mentioned, ‘No blame will likely be hooked up to older ladies who usually are not hoping for marriage, in the event that they take off their clothes, with out flaunting their charms …’ [Q. 24:60] – which means, the jilbāb.”

He [ʿĀṣim] mentioned: Then she replied, “Is there something after that?” We answered, “‘… however it’s preferable for them not to do that.’” And she or he responded, “That is the proof for [wearing] the jilbāb.”54

Right here, we have now the recounting of an incident between Asim ibn Ahwal (the narrator), his unnamed male companions, and the scholar Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). Earlier than delving into Geissinger’s interpretation of the whole situation, readers ought to pay attention to the next info relating to Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). Hafsah bint Sireen was a big scholar of the Tabi’een; her father was a freed slave of the good Companion Anas ibn Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), and thus Hafsah’s household was blessed to have a mawla-relationship with him. Hafsah and her brother Muhammad turned identified for his or her information, with Hafsah herself being extremely regarded for her information of the Qur’an and ahadith. Many different students and college students of data would go to along with her, looking for information and the knowledge she needed to impart.

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Iyaas ibn Mu’awiyyah mentioned:

“I didn’t meet anybody whom I can want over Hafsah.” He was requested: “What about Hasan al Basri and Muhammad ibn Sireen?” He mentioned: “As for me I don’t want anybody over her. She learnt the Qur’an by coronary heart when she was twelve years outdated.” [Al Mizzi, Tahdheeb al-Kamaal, xxxv. 152]

Hishaam ibn Hassaan mentioned:

“I noticed Al-Hasan (Hasan al Basri) and (Muhammad) ibn Sireen, and I didn’t see anybody that I assumed was cleverer than Hafsah.” [Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah, Vol 2, Page 709]

Hishaam narrates that when Ibn Sireen (her brother) would discover one thing troublesome and ambiguous (ashkala ‘alayhi) relating to the Qiraa’ah (recitation), he would say, “Go and ask Hafsah find out how to recite.” (Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah.)

All of that is obligatory to bear in mind as one reads Geissinger’s interpretation of the whole situation. She says:

This anecdote (hereafter “the Ḥafṣah’s veil anecdote”) attributed to ʿĀṣim al-Aḥwal (d. ca. 141/758), a freedman and ḥadīth transmitter,55 presents a bunch of pious males in Basra who have been within the behavior of coming to see Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn, maybe in an effort to hear aḥādīth or inspiring phrases.56

This anecdote locations their perceptions on the forefront slightly than hers. By way of ʿĀṣim’s voice and accompanying gesture (“She had placed on her over-garment like this”), the reader/viewers is proven Ḥafṣah as these males see her – an older lady carrying a jilbāb that she has wrapped in such a approach that her face is roofed. The boys disapprove, and confidently appropriate her by quoting a part of Q. 24:60. By so doing, they indicate that there is no such thing as a purpose for her to put on a jilbāb at her age, a lot much less veil her face. Given her household’s slave previous,57 the suggestion just isn’t solely that she is being unnecessarily stringent, however as nicely that she is giving herself airs as she even exceeds what’s required of elite freeborn older ladies.58”

Up to now, the reader/viewers has been primed to understand Ḥafṣah solely by way of the boys’s eyes, to unreflectively undertake the boys’s gaze and its presumed spiritual authority as their very own. However when she responds by posing a query that not directly factors to their failure to cite the whole verse, the reader/viewers begins to suspect that Ḥafṣah is aware of greater than they’d assumed. The boys reply by reciting its concluding portion, on this approach not directly conceding that their understanding of this verse is partial at greatest. Lastly, Ḥafṣah is granted the final phrase, and with it she turns the tables on them (in addition to on the reader/viewers), asserting that its concluding phrases vindicate her sartorial alternative.

It’s fascinating, in a twisted form of approach, simply how Geissinger has chosen to set the stage for readers. She frames the scenario as one the place the boys in some way have the higher hand, and that they “disapprove” of how she is protecting herself in entrance of them. Moreover, she insinuates that this has one thing to do with Hafsah’s standing as coming from a household of freed slaves – and that these males look down upon her for it, and (in reference to some educational debates relating to hijab vis-a-vis slave ladies and free ladies) that they really feel that she doesn’t have the best to be observing jilbab in such a approach.

Contemplate, as an alternative, the next framework, which is a much more correct depiction of the story: the interplay between Hafsah and the boys who came over her was reflective of scholars visiting their older instructor, as was (and is) frequent amongst students and college students of data. Clearly, they visited her usually and had an excellent relationship along with her; one may even enterprise to characterize their relationship as her being maternal or grandmotherly with these youthful males. It’s exactly as a result of they’d a optimistic and cozy relationship with Hafsah that they felt assured sufficient to inform her that she didn’t must cowl herself in entrance of them; undoubtedly, within the warmth of Basra, they acknowledged that she was possible uncomfortable to be protecting herself with a further layer, and protecting her face as nicely in entrance of them. Slightly than wanting down on her, or presuming that they knew higher than her, they spoke from a spot of consideration; they wished her to really feel snug and relaxed. By quoting the ayah concerning the rukhsa (exception) relating to jilbab for older ladies, they demonstrated their degree of consolation along with her and their fondness for her. Hafsah’s familial background performs no function in any respect, besides to emphasise her scholarly lineage as a pupil and mawla of Anas ibn Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him); this connection raises her within the sight of different students and her college students, slightly than being a destructive issue.

Hafsah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) in flip, reminded her youthful college students of the remainder of the ayah, emphasizing that regardless of realizing concerning the exception afforded to her, she selected to pursue the extra pious motion: that’s, to keep up her jilbab round them. As nicely, this was proof of how she, a feminine scholar, understood the aayaat of hijab and selected to implement it, versus the fixed claims that solely male students weighed in on hijab and its rulings. This additionally demonstrates Hafsah’s personal standing as a scholar, and the way she selected to coach her college students on this second. She not solely displayed her personal information of the fiqhi rulings of hijab and jilbab, but in addition highlighted the facet of ihsaan (excellence) as regards to how a Muslim ought to conduct themselves. Even when given a legally mandated exception, Hafsah selected to proceed observing jilbab along with her male college students as a result of Qur’an’s conclusion that to take action is spiritually higher (for the older ladies being addressed by the aayah).

Although Geissinger claims that “the reader/viewers has been primed to understand Ḥafṣa solely by way of the boys’s eyes, to unreflectively undertake the boys’s gaze and its presumed spiritual authority as their very own…” the reality is that she alone is the one priming the reader / viewers to view the story from such a perspective. Nowhere in Asim al-Ahwal’s phrases can one discover the presumption of non secular authority from the boys; certainly, the very context of the anecdote proves the precise reverse: that on this scenario, Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is the elder scholar, the one with whom presumed spiritual authority lies. The boys are her youthful college students, coming to sit down at her toes and study from her. When Geissinger goes on to say “when she responds by posing a query that not directly factors to their failure to cite the whole verse, the reader/viewers begins to suspect that Ḥafṣah is aware of greater than they’d assumed,” she betrays her personal – and the presumed viewers’s – ignorance: the idea that Hafsah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) just isn’t as religiously educated, or superior to, the boys visiting her. Slightly, anybody with an inkling of Hafsah’s standing and deserves as a scholar would instantly know and assume that on this story, her information will grow to be much more evident. Geissinger concludes by saying

Lastly, Ḥafṣa is granted the final phrase, and with it she turns the tables on them (in addition to on the reader/viewers), asserting that its concluding phrases vindicate her sartorial alternative.”

Once more, the framing right here is unusual – Hafsah just isn’t ‘granted’ the final phrase; slightly, she powerfully demonstrates her information and offers an impactful educating second to her college students. Sadly, Geissinger additionally simplifies and dismisses the whole challenge at hand as that of a “sartorial alternative,” when it’s something however a mere query of dressing. As a substitute, Hafsah’s resolution to look at jilbab in entrance of her college students is one which displays a way of upper non secular conduct, out of the honest and ardent need to please her Creator.

From starting to finish, the story of Hafsah bint Sireen’s jilbab is reflective of the highly effective historical past of feminine Islamic scholarship, of the authorized rulings and non secular classes derived from this educating second, and of an instance of the classical custom of interaction between Islamic students and their college students. Geissinger’s option to dishonestly signify and body the characters and the occasions that befell is each unethical and unsurprising. Certainly, it’s to be anticipated from the progressivists who make up the majority of Muslamic academia, who’ve a protracted observe file of twisting classical texts and historic context to make up a model of Islam and Islamic scholarship that fits their very own explicit world views.

Whereas this essay has checked out just one excerpt from a single paper, it’s a obvious instance of the mental dishonesty at play not simply in Geissinger’s work, however within the overwhelming majority of literature penned by progressive Muslamic teachers. For the common Muslim – and the more-than-averagely-educated Muslim – who could discover themselves delving into many well-liked books on Islam and gender written by well-known progressive teachers, it’s essential to learn the literature with a crucial lens. It’s all too simple to fall for the literary sleights of hand and twisted takes of our Islamic historical past, main us to erroneously imagine within the different details of progressive Muslamic academia.

What’s deeply unlucky is that whereas the varied topics of debate relating to Islam and ladies are completely price analyzing in better element, progressivists do us a disfavour in the way in which they select to strategy the subject. Slightly than adhering to requirements of educational honesty, and thus benefiting the broader Muslim discourses, they’ve chosen to undermine the very foundations of our exemplary historical past of Islamic scholarship. To ensure that us to genuinely handle the legitimate questions and points that exist inside our communities, we should start with a basis of sincerity in the direction of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and a dedication to looking for the Reality in an trustworthy method, with out projecting our personal biases and agendas insofar as is humanly attainable.

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