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«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»

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This is believed to find support in the Prophetic saying that reads: ‘Any woman who

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Paradise will be forbidden to her.' (Sunan Ibn Majah, 10:2133). Furthermore, alQaradawi does not question the permissibility of the controversial male repudiation as a means for effectuating divorce. Rather, in his much-celebrated book, the Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, he only expounds on the limitations stipulated in the Islamic tradition on when a man can divorce his wife (e.g., during her period of menstruation).

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the greater right of men via repudiation is, again, their “natural” position as leaders and financial supporters of the household, with the consequent argument being that women are not intrinsically seen as inferior to men. As stipulated in Islamic family law, there are certain general procedural restrictions that must be observed by a man who wishes to repudiate his wife: First, he must be of sound mind at the time of repudiation, and second, repudiation must be absolute (without being intended to be conditional upon a future action) (al-Qaradawi, 2003b). Although the legal systems in the Muslim world vary, the ways in which divorce is handled in many Muslim countries tend to converge, and are largely reflective of the overall picture of “unequal” divorce rights between men and women by the IHRL standards.

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Islamic intolerance in Muslim cultures is the obligation of veiling. The following statement by the ECHR on the headscarf controversy was made in reference to the

Dahlab27 case:

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Qaradawi points out the irony that the right of European Muslim women to cover their heads (and faces) on their own accord is denied on the grounds of protecting the principles of equality and freedom, while non-Muslim women are allowed to ‘freely dress in a revealing and provocative manner!’ (OnIslam, 2010, para. 26). Nevertheless, the scholar sympathizes with the Muslim women who are affected by the headscarf ban and accordingly permits them to take off their veils within premises where the law is in place on the basis that the need to access such premises makes removing the veil permissible (OnIslam, 2010). He cautions, however, that European Muslim women must revert to covering themselves when they are no longer within the scope of the ban (OnIslam, 2010). Thus, while the scholar makes use of the principle of ḍarūra in this

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obligation of veiling is binding in most instances.

Al-Qaradawi’s position on the Islamic veiling is premised on his belief that it is part of the personification of the principle of “modesty” captured by the Islamic concept of ‘awra (that which is to be hidden). ‘Awra denotes specific parts of the body that must be covered in the presence of the same or the opposite sex. Often cited as a justification for the Islamic principle of modesty is the general prophetic prohibition of looking at the ‘awra of another person of the same or the opposite sex with or without desire (alQaradawi, 2003b). There is variation in the definition of a woman’s ‘awra, but a vast majority of Muslim scholars agree that veiling is obligatory, with a minority arguing that it is merely “encouraged” (al-Qaradawi, 2003b). The following verse is often taken

to be evidence for the specific obligation of veiling:

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their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons,

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concerning the precise nature of ‘veiling’, centering on the phrase: ‘… not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof’...’ in the afore-mentioned verse. Al-Qaradawi defines “adornment” as that which ‘… includes both natural features such as the face, hair, and other attractive parts of the body, and artificial enhancement of beauty, such as the dress, ornaments, make-up, and the like’ (alQaradawi, 2003b, p.139). As for the latter part of the Qur’anic phrase - “that which [necessary] appears thereof” – the scholar accepts the definition adopted by the Companions of the Prophet and their immediate followers that it denotes the face, the hands, and their ordinary adornments, such as kohl (eye cosmetics of black powder) and a ring (al-Qaradawi, 2003b). He sees this as being based on the following prophetic


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believes that all outward manifestations of a woman’s beauty must be protected, which include bodily parts, mannerisms, accessories, and clothing that are deemed to be potently arousing to men. While exceptions exist according to the scholar’s definition such as the permissibility of not covering the hair, ears, neck, upper part of the chest, arms and legs in the presence of the woman’s father – he remains stern in the belief that

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meant to be covered before any other man or woman (al-Qaradawi, 2003b).

Taking all the preceding specifics of ‘awra into consideration, there is, then, such a thing as an “Islamic dress” for a Muslim woman in terms of coverage, size, clarity, and distinctiveness of design according to al-Qaradawi. He provides the following conditions for an Islamically-acceptable female dress code: It ‘must cover entire body with the exception of “that which is apparent”; ‘it must not be transparent, revealing what is underneath it’; it ‘must not be too tight so as to define the parts of her body’; it must not be or resemble a type of clothing that is specifically for men; it must not imitate any non-Muslim way of dressing, as Islam encourages its followers to develop their own distinctive characteristics in appearance (al-Qaradawi, 2003b, p.149Al-Qaradawi’s traditional perspective on women in Islam is further accentuated by his critical response to the Wadud controversy in 2005. On March 18 of said year, Amina Wadud, an American scholar of Islam, led a mixed-gender Friday prayer in a church in New York City that garnered both acclaims and criticisms, the former mainly in the West and the latter predominantly in the Muslim world. It did not take alQaradawi long to issue an online fatwa condemning Wadud and implying that she had removed herself from Islam. He states that ‘throughout Muslim history it has never been heard of a woman leading the Friday Prayer or delivering the Friday sermon…’ (OnIslam, 2005, para. 5), and that ‘it is established that leadership in Prayer in Islam is to be for men’ (OnIslam, 2005, para. 6). He further argues that the fact that ‘prayer in Islam is an act that involves different movements of the body [e.g., bowing and prostrating)’ (OnIslam, 2005, para. 7) means that ‘it does not befit a woman, whose

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which may consequently ‘divert the men’s attention from concentrating in the Prayer and the spiritual atmosphere required’ (OnIslam, 2005, para. 7). To conclude his fatwa,

he addresses Wadud directly:

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conspiracies woven around them’ (OnIslam, 2005, para. 43).

Several important ideas in al-Qaradawi’s response to the controversy reflect his overarching position on women’s role in Islam. First, his believes that leadership in prayer in Islam is a right exclusive to men. Second, the idea that a woman leading in the front may dangerously serve as a potent distraction for men behind the line seems to reveal a reductionist perception of the gender as sexual beings. Third, his advice that Amina Wadud return to God and religion denotes his belief that a woman who leads a mixed-gender prayer automatically removes herself from the fold of Islam.

Speaking to an audience in a panel discussion with the theme Jewish, Christian and Muslim Women Seeking Clergy Equality in South Africa in 2011, Wadud defended her decision by clarifying her belief that, while there had been very little precedent for a female leading a Friday prayer and delivering a sermon prior to the event in 2005, there is no evidence in the Qur’an and Prophetic sayings that leadership in Islamic congregational worship is a man’s proprietary, or that it cannot be occupied by a woman (MomentMag, 2013). In the same public speech, she admits that the event in 2005 was a

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from positions of authority in religious rituals (MomentMag, 2013).

6.3.2 Ramadan on Women in Islam Ramadan recognizes women as both individuals of their own right and ‘partners [of men] on the spiritual path’ (Ramadan, 2009, p. 210). He believes that God ‘addresses women as being on an equal footing with men’, and that ‘their status as beings and believers’ and what is required of them in matters of worship are absolutely similar to those of men (Ramadan, 2009, p. 210). His idea of “partnership” here seems to be based on the notions of equality and mutual complementarity (as opposed to dominance and dependency), which is rooted in his understanding of the Qur’anic verses that read ‘They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them’ (Qur’an, 2:187) and ‘And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought’ (Qur’an, 30:21) (in Ramadan, 2009, p.

210). Contrary to al-Qaradawi’s understanding of the Qur’anic view of women’s role in Islam, Ramadan’s reading of the Text allows him to believe that it invites ‘the believing conscience to perceive women through their being, beyond their different social functions’ (Ramadan, 2009, p. 211). Accordingly, the scholar appears to be critical of the fact that much of Muslim theological discourse on women tends to revolve predominantly around their roles and functions in the familial context.

Unlike al-Qaradawi, Ramadan is cautious about the kinds of issues into which he allows himself to delve, and is especially critical about the tendency in the West to reduce the issue of women’s rights in Islam ‘to a passionate, oversimplified debate

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attention of those involved and interested in the debate from the crux of the matter, which, to him, is the understanding of women’s being in light of the higher objectives of Islam. As opposed to limiting the debate to only studying what the Texts permit or forbid, the scholar believes that it is crucial for the discourse on Muslim women’s rights to focus on issues as ‘… the acquisition of knowledge (about texts and all the other sciences) for women; the meaning of their dignity and welfare in all that has to do with their minds, hearts, and bodies; their inalienable autonomy and the essence of their freedom in the mindscape of social representations as well as in group structures, without overlooking the question of the essence of womanhood and related factors’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.218). Referring to the more intricate issues in the context of women’s rights in Islam that seem ‘… to be a forbidden territory…’ due to the sacrosanctity of the Texts and the “unquestionable” nature of Muslim cultural norms, Ramadan finds it fairly surprising that Muslim jurists and thinkers tend to come to an impasse when engaged in a debate despite their being so readily supportive of ijtihād and social and political reform (Ramadan, 2009, p.227). Strangely enough, this phenomenon seems to apply to Ramadan himself. For example, he appears reluctant to even open a discussion on the issue of women’s right to lead the Friday prayer. In an interview with Claudia Mende from Qantara.de30, Ramadan cautions that the aforementioned issue ‘does not have a real position of authority from within the Islamic setting’, and that it is significantly more important for a Muslim woman ‘to be a faqi, meaning a jurist, a judge, a Muslim scholar’ than create a controversy around their right to lead the Friday prayer (Mende, 2009, para. 4). He further states that ‘when men and

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he does not explain why he thinks so. Here, it may seem like Ramadan is perpetuating the image of patriarchal constructions of femininity and that of patriarchal reluctance to shift power in gender relations and roles, especially considering the fact that the scholar rejects the idea that ‘… a woman with the same training and skills as a man should be barred from responsible posts because of being a woman’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.20).

However, as will be seen in the discussion section of this chapter (Chapter 6.4), the scholar’s position here is guided by several other common key factors within the prevailing Muslim paradigm for thinking about the boundaries of reform in relation to women’s rights (and other contemporary issues).

On the issue of veiling, Ramadan’s support for the right and freedom of women to choose on their own whether and when to fulfill the obligation is consistent across his writings and speeches. Although he does not deny that veiling is an Islamic prescription, he argues that it cannot be imposed on women by the state or any other authority but her own self because it is an act of faith that can only be embraced and expressed by sincere choice, similar to prayers and the other pillars of Islam (Ramadan, 2009). He believes that Muslim women should be trusted to experience on their own accord and at their own pace their spiritual journey to emancipation (Ramadan, 2009).

The scholar further points out that during the Prophet’s lifetime, women were not forced to wear the headscarf, much less veil the face, which, according to him, was an obligation specific only to the Prophet’s wives (Paulson, 2007). Thus, he strongly recommends an intra-community debate in the Muslim world on the nature of face veiling (though not for the headscarf obligation). Similar to al-Qaradawi, Ramadan brings to his thinking the perception of men as being susceptible to carnal desires, as

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the weakest of the two genders who are much more likely to look at women in a fragile way than vice versa (in Dunbar, 2008).

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