SPEAKER: Good morning. I would like to join in welcoming you to the first of the series of the Cape lectures, and to ask you to join me in welcoming Dr. Nimat Hafez Barazangi. She's going to speak to us today from the topic of Why Muslim Women are Reinterpreting The Quran, A Transformative Scholarship and Activism. As is indicated in this title, our speaker of the morning is very much a scholar activist in her own right. She has a number of longtime affiliations with our university.
She received her Ph.D. Here studying in the fields of education and Arab studies, as well as in adult and community studies. Before that, she studied at Columbia University and at Damascus University. She has been affiliated as well with the program on feminist gender and sexuality studies, previously women's studies, as well as the previous program in gender and global change, and the more recent program-- before that even, program on women and international development.
She has received a number of awards, including two Fulbright awards, an initial one, and then a senior one in which she consulted as well with the Ministry of Higher Education, and with universities in the areas of curriculum development and higher education. Her publications are many, and they include a book that is very closely related to the topic that she will share with us today. She has a number of other publications. She's spoken widely at Cornell and Ithaca in New York state in the region and the country as well as internationally.
We are indeed quite privileged to have her join us in the presentation this morning. So please join me in welcoming Nimat.
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well, good morning, and as-salamu alaykum, may peace be upon you. I'm quite honored to be invited to this highly intellectual gathering, and especially honored by the presence of President Emeritus of this university. Thank you all for being here. I'm already getting nervous because I'm so passionate about this subject. And please do not feel threatened by my strong presentation. I'm only expressing the work that I've been doing, or the lack of response about the work that I've been doing for the past 40 years.
And hence, I'm very passionate about it. As I stated earlier, may peace be upon you and upon this nation and this university because we are in turmoil. I'm especially grateful for this opportunity to converse with you all. And thanks, Sally McConnell [? Jenell ?] for her invitation, unfortunately, she is in Japan now, and for Cindy for her administrative support, and for Josephine for her generous introduction. I'm going to give a summary of the main points of my lecture.
Then I will proceed with some details so you may see some repetition. I'll speak for about 40 minutes, then I'll be happy to take some questions at the end. And excuse me for trying to look into my paper because my passion sometimes takes me off the subject, so I want to stick to it. In my recent lecture at the California Commonwealth Club titled, Why Muslim Women must Re-Interpret the Quran, I began with this statement, "The time has come for Muslim women to move from the peaceful, silent revolution that's firmly grounded in the Quran into an open struggle against injustice."
One of the first questions that I received was, "What is the mechanism to guarantee a peaceful, just interpretation of the Quran?" My answer was, it is the responsibility of the community to guard against unjust and violent interpretations. But, I added, when the community co-defies a particular interpretation, it becomes the responsibility of each individual Muslim to stand up to upholding the Quranic rules of interpretation. In this answer, I wanted to assert that the crises is in understanding Islam vis-a-vis Muslims.
I also wanted to emphasize that because of this crisis, the majority of the 800 Muslim women have lost their identity and identification with the Quran to the point of losing the moral courage to stand up to their rights as autonomist entities with intellectual, social, and religious responsibilities. In today's lecture, Why Muslim Women are Re-Interpreting the Quran, I would like to further emphasize and expand on the crisis in understanding Islam by both Muslims and non-Muslims, given the recent politically charged debate on Muslim women's attire and the building of Islamic centers particularly in lower Manhattan.
These debates are sadly the closest thing to anti-Semitism because they indicate a massive ignorance that generates hatred similar to what ignited Nazism. My goal here is both philosophical and practical. It is philosophical as I was reminded recently by a close colleague of what the philosopher Nietzsche once said, "People would rather believe than know." The practical aspect is the urgency for a transformative process beyond dialogue or reform.
What is needed is to address the premises on which people with blind beliefs were built given that the core problem within the current debate is misinformation in addition to ignorance, such as the false assumption that a mosque is to be built on ground zero and the propagation that the Quran insights violence to enhance calling for it to be burned in a church whose name, ironically, starts with the word dove. Therefore, the time has come for us as academicians to question what has been taught about Islam and to reflect on what has been missing in the study of Islam and to reflect on what has been missing in the study and understanding of Muslim women in our own institutions.
Since the politics of difference in our society does not allow a move beyond the double standards in viewing different belief systems, it is time for us to recognize the relationship between the knowledge about Islam that has been imparted, and it's long range effect on the populace beliefs. Similarly, given that most past reform movement in Muslim societies have failed, and since one of the core problems in the globalization of democracy movement is the absence of Muslim women in shaping and developing Islamic thought, the time has come for a revolutionary move to build a new structure of Muslim societies and communities through an egalitarian interpretation of the Quran as the primary and the only divine source of Islam.
The new structure and understanding for the foundations and teaching and learning Islam must materialize before we can claim any change and before women can regain their identity with the Quran in order to retake their principal role in the community. Let me explain. In the debates about the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan, it was not mentioned that the leading person in the development of the Cordoba Initiative-- that's the name of the center, proposed center-- the main person is Miss Daisy Khan.
And she is the founder and Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, or as abbreviated in the name ASMA. The purpose of which is to dismiss fear and misunderstanding of Muslims and Islam that have been circulating since 9/11/2001. Miss Khan also happened to be the founder and Executive Director of the internationally known organization, WISE, or Woman's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality.
Though her work with Cordoba Initiative I'm sure is linked to her promotion of ASMA and WISE goals, the perception of Muslim women as followers of their husbands had blinded the media and everyone involved from recognizing these important relations in Khans work. Even when Christiane Amanpour wanted to quell the storm of bias against Muslims and Islam, she introduced Miss Khan on ABC this week as the wife of Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Why didn't Amanpour introduce Khan as the Executive Director of ASMA and/or WISE? Why did she introduce Rabbi Joyce Leavitt, during the same interview, as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center? This example reminds me also with a specific event that took place on this campus 20 years ago. At the time when Cornell scholars were encouraged to design courses for diverse perspectives, I was accused of fundamentalism and of proselytizing Islam because I proposed to teach a course on Muslim women from the Muslim women's perspective.
By re-interpretating the Quran, therefore, we Muslim women, scholar, activist, are transforming the conventional understanding of Islam and the dynamics of Muslim thinking. By changing our perception of ourselves from complementary, secondary role to a primary role, we hope to change the perception of Islam. As chapter 13 of the Quran state, "God will not change the conditions of people until they change what is in themselves." Thus, we are bringing a wake up call to the world as a whole by implementing a fundamental aspect of the social contract between Muslims and Islam, namely to change from within.
Indeed, this must be the first essential step toward accomplishing comprehensive human rights for ourselves, and toward the much needed challenge to the unwarranted authority held by Muslim men for 14 centuries, as well as the authority of teaching about Islam by non-Muslims. Jocelyne Cesari, the Director of Islam and the West Program at Harvard and John Hopkins Universities, stated in an article recently titled, "Islam is a Religion, Not a Terror Ideology," she stated, "Scholarly literature often echoes stereotypical images of Islam and Muslims. In some cases, headlines come directly from titles in academic journals and books like, "The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming, by Daniel Pipes, or, The Root of Muslim Rage, by Bernard Lewis, and, The Crisis of Islamic Holy War and Unholy Terror, by Bernard Lewis as well," end of Jocelyn's quote.
Thus our strive is not as simple as it sounds when we are working against the views that made the majority of Muslim women imperiled, perpetual minors, a religious burden, socially and morally dependent creatures, and almost intellectually and intuitively null. While we are bringing in a French perspective on Islam to move away from the gross misunderstanding of Sharia Law, for instance, the Dean of Orientalist at Princeton University, Bernard Lewis, demeans the field of Islamic studies by such catchy titles. Furthermore, the United States and European governments do not feel ashamed of implicitly agreeing recently with Hamid Karzai intended compromise with the most extremist, ultra extremist, the Taliban, even accepting their version of what's wrongly called Islamic Sharia.
Obviously, Muslim women will pay the heavy price if that happened. Therefore, a change in premises, perceptions, and attitudes on the ground is overdue for both Muslims and non-Muslims. In making such strong assertions, I wanted to set the tone of urgency of this crisis beginning on this campus and as far away as the cave of the Talibans. Let me first detail the problem, the context, and possible solutions. I will then present some facts and statistics to analyze those suffocating attitudes and practices concerning women and the study of Islam.
Finally, I will touch on whether Muslim women's interpretation of the Quran have or have not helped. It should be clear that today I am neither presenting a theoretical model, nor discussing theological treaties. I'm merely analyzing the centuries old sociologically and cultural phenomena from within the Quranic ethical and pedagogical framework. The problem, let me repeat, the problem is not with Islam nor with the dictator's in extremist groups, but with their presentation of Islam in general.
Therefore, I begin by questioning what have been taken for granted. True, Muslim societies have not awakened to the reality that human development is in the-- I'm sorry, is a process that is based on balancing a belief system with its interpretation. Yet, non-Muslims, who think that they are helping, do not realize that they are adding to the problem because they often separate knowledge from the value system. The end results, in both cases, are more representations of Islam and more conflicts.
How? When I was asked recently to review a legal memorandum on and Islam that was written by graduate student at the law school for the benefit of judges in developing countries on gender justice, I was enthusiastic to see that some aspect of Islam are being introduced at the law school here. The memorandum began with the definition of "Islamic law" as synonymous with "Islamic Sharia." I was perplexed. How could such an understanding produce justice for women when one of the most fundamental aspect of a Muslim woman's life is determined by someone who does not know the difference between Sharia and what is known in the West as Islamic Law?
Obviously, the student was following what has been taught at the school and probably at the University for decades without being questioned. The magnitude of the problem here requires more than just me explaining the difference to the person who asked me to review the document to the students. The problem is embedded in the premises on which the discipline of Islamic studies is based. Sharia Islam is the path or the guidance of Quran, in its totality and not the collection of rules derived by jurists or interpreters that were solidified by western colonials under the term Islamic Law.
I repeat, Sharia and Islam is the path or the guidance of the Quran in its totality. The Quran states, "then we put thee on Sharia, or the path. So follow that way and follow not the desires of those who know not." What we need therefore is to critically examine the commonly used meanings of Islam whether by Muslims or non-Muslims. Islam is neither a law nor a dogma of submission, as Muslims generally translate it. Rather, Islam is a religial, moral, rational world view. I repeat, Islam is neither a law nor a dogma of submission, because submission means disillusion of responsibility from awareness and understanding the deep meanings of the Quran in order to practice it responsibly. Unfortunately, the confusion between Sharia and what is wrongly called Islamic Law is magnified on signs reading, "No Sharia," that are being held by the demagogues who were protesting against the Cordoba Initiative and the building of mosques in other places.
These signs might have also instigated vandalism to the mosques in Tennessee and California because people fear the ambiguous, especially when it's built on prejudice. The view of Islam as a law seems to be influenced by the Jewish view of the Talmud as much as it is influenced by the church missionary emphasis on elite male leadership supported by the colonials. We see more harming results of such imperial acts when the United States government interfered in drafting the Iraqi constitution in 2005, allowing for extremist Muslim clerics to slip in specific "Muslim rulings" as the basis for developing any new law in Iraq.
Such rulings are those that have hurt women in the past and what motivated Iraq woman in 1959 to struggle for removing these rules from Iraqi personal law. The 1959 law was upheld even by the dictator Saddam Hussein. Yet, the US government gave itself the privilege for such a change in order to protect its own interests. What right have it in doing so? Similarly-- and this example was used before on this whole, and I would like to repeat it in more details used by my colleagues here.
Similarly, the Archbishop of Canterbury statements in February 2008 is an example of well-intended gesture, but that represents misunderstanding the difference between the Islamic guiding principles of the Quran and what is known as Islamic Law when he suggested that the British lawmakers should come to "accommodation with some aspect of Muslim Law, as we already do with aspects of other kinds of religious law." The Archbishop made a gross miscalculation, because the present legal systems that some Muslims want to transplant in the West consist of predominantly centuries old interpretations and customary practices by Muslim males that were made into law with the support of the Colonial Common Laws to subdue the conservative Muslim male leaders of the time.
That's what's happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan, that history is repeating it, sadly, in the most negative way. The Archbishop's statement is not different. And it also represents dire implications not only for England but for Muslims and non-Muslims around the globe. Has he forgotten the hardship that women have been suffering since similar rulings would impose on Muslims and other religious groups by the British and other Colonials during the 19th and 20th centuries?
Being an educator specialized with the foundations of Arabic and Islamic studies and concerned with gender justice, I think that it is fair to claim that as long as Islam is being studied with the tools of Orientalism that is treating Islam as subject of study stamped with an otherness-- stamped with an otherness, the West will never be able to understand Islam, nor help Muslim women. The West does not see these women as citizens in their own right, nor realize that such women, and Muslims in general, are already an integral element in the new West.
The assumptions that Islam is a foreign religion and that needs to be interpreted by others telling Muslims how to understand their own belief system to the point that a Jewish professor on this campus conducted a Quranic study circle for Muslim students, unbelievable, and telling Muslims where they should or should not practice it to the point that they are threatened by burning the Quran. These assumptions and acts further marginalize Muslim women and bring more misunderstandings.
Hence, there will never be a reformation movement in Muslim societies like what happened in Europe, because the structure of Muslim societies and their aspirations are different. The social structure is built on the extended family social collaboration model, not on the nucleus economic based model. While the aspirations are mostly related to past history and traditional authority morality not to nationalistic or ethnic morality. The time has come for us and for a revolutionary move to build a new structure for Muslim societies and communities through an egalitarian interpretation of the Quran that restores the religial, moral, rational authority of interpretation to each individual Muslim.
We would be able to have a peaceful and just Muslim society only by using two basic Quranic principles, observing the natural order of the word and developing action plans by means of educated reason and mutual consultation. Let me bring some statistics and the attitudes surrounding them.
On the occasion of the International Women's Day in March 2010, the revolutionary Afghan Women Association stated that Afghan women are mourning for the gang rape of many women, for being flogged, for being auctioned in open markets, and for their young daughters who put an end to their miserable lives in their own hands. In 2008, the Iraqi Women Ministry reported that since 2003 out of four-- out of each four marriages in Iraq ended in-- three of them ended in divorce.
In addition, in a recent PBC report, the head of Iraqi AL-Amal Association stated, Iraq has one million widows who have no economic support for them and for their estimated 4 million orphans beyond the social welfare payment of less than $50 a month, not counting the four million Iraqi refugees and the hundreds of thousands who died and injured. I wonder if this is the kind of civil disintegration that Madeleine Albright called civil collateral damage, or is it a worth while price for George W. democracy?
These facts and statistics concern me more when I hear and read false reports of liberating Afghani and Iraqi women after the invasions. My concern here is not only with the complete facts, per se, as much as with the perceptual and attitudinal stand under pinning such reports about Muslim women. The problem is two-fold. On the one hand is this stigmatization of Muslim women as the helpless group that needs outside help. As if their misery is not related to the ways of militarized politics that's being granted with the support of our think tanks.
On the other hand, the majority of Muslim women who experience these situations often are told that they are being liberated by removing the veil and by going to beauty parlors to do their hair and paint their fingernails. These women have no clear solutions to their pathetic condition either, nor the capacity to change their lot mainly because they are oppressed by their lack of skills and by distorted knowledge of those who claim to liberate them.
Their pathetic conditions are further complicated by the fact that they do not realize that their knowledge of Islam relies on secondary conflicting sources instead of relying on the Quran. They may recite the Quran many times during daily prayers asking for God's help, but they have been mostly absent from extracting meanings directly from the Quran by themselves and for themselves in order to challenge false representations of Islam. Such representations are those that resulted in segregating men and women, secluding women in the name of modesty, and sometimes preventing them from accessing education in institutions, discouraging or preventing them from congregation and prayer and community decision making, but above all, denying them the direct identification with the Quran as an autonomous person.
In other words, they have been absent from the decision making process in which representations of Islam and themselves have been developed largely by Muslim males and particularly, partially, by non-Muslims. It is fair, therefore, to suggest that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would be amazed at the current perceptions of Islam and at the Muslims practice of it. Because people foil Islam in the images of their own beliefs. The sad part is that most Muslims, regardless of their university education, have also brought in the idea that Islam is a private religion.
They have bought in the idea thinking that by merely imitating the image and reported actions of the Prophet that they have mastered their religious duties and fulfilled the Islamic identity. Although the Quran instructs, "Take what the messenger has brought you and leave what he prevented you from doing." The problem is that Muslims came to codify all reported sayings and actions attributed to the Prophet, whether authentic or not, viewing them as sacred as the Quran to the point of missing the basic Quranic message that the Prophet had carried for 22 years between 610 and 632.
By elevating these traditions from their second place as a source of Islam known as Hadith or Sunnah to the same level of the Quran, being the primary source, they have violated the message of the Quran of, "no deity but God." [? Meisam ?] [? Farooqi ?] says, "The Quran reminds us that it is not because of the prophet Muhammad that Muslims accept the Quran, but because of the Quran that they have accepted the authority of the Prophet. In addition, why the Prophet as an agent of change was willing to take a risk by challenging the common sense knowledge of the time, the majority of today's Muslims are not willing to abandon the certain old interpretations of Islam that are misleading and unjust and replace them with egalitarian intention as outlined in the only divine source, the Quran.
Hence, it is also fair to state that the true message of Islam concerning women has rarely been practiced for the past 14 centuries. It is fair, let me repeat, that the true message of Islam concerning women has rarely been practiced for the past 14 centuries because most representations of Islam are based on the reported traditions and without being corroborated with the Quran. Consequently, the search for understanding Muslim women cannot be separated from understanding historical events that surrounds them.
Neither can it be completely secularized or viewed separately from the belief system it represents. It is next to impossible for a non-Muslim mind to comprehend any Muslim phenomenon without trying to find a representation in his or her own belief system even when she uses a nonreligious model. Likewise, it will be next to impossible for a Muslim male to explain issues without retrieving past interpretations developed by male jurists who rely mainly on reported prophetic traditions.
Hence, we Muslim women, scholar, activists are re-interpreting the Quran with a Quranic frame of reference that does not propagate old interpretations. We are leading this process of identifying with the message of the Quran interpreting on our own in order to understand Islam beyond the rituals and to rethink the message of tawhid, or, there is no deity but God. We need to understand this message in order to implement it fully in time and place.
To conclude, have Muslim women's interpretation of the Quran helped? Intimate reading of the message of the Quran that the prophets carried for 22 years continue to be missed even by some Muslim female leaders, including Ingrid Mattson, the first Muslim female president of ISNA, or the largest Muslim organization in North America. When she became president in 2006, she did not lead the co-educational prayer, congregation prayer, with the excuse that there was no precedent in the prophetic tradition.
This is not only perplexing but it is frightening. First, there was a precedent. And there is no specific narrative that prevents women from leading co-ed congregational prayer. Second, even if there was such a narrative, Dr. Mattson seems to have forgotten that the Quranic meaning of [? hilava, ?] or trusteeship, is not limited to ritualistic, political, or social leadership. But it starts with the congregational leadership being the most important process of educating for change in premises and perceptions.
We should remember that the Quran was the only written source during the life of the Prophet Muhammad, and for more than 100 years after his death, and before his biographies and traditions were collected. As the second source of Islam, again, called Hadith or Sunnah, these traditions, essential as they may be, the majority of which were abused by male interpreters like what is happening with regards to attire and seclusion. We should also remember that when we talk about religious revivalism, Muslims are not alone in experiencing identity crisis.
According to Oliver Roy, this identity crisis is in response to "the post cultural society," and is the foundation of contemporary religious revivalism not only among Muslims but also among other religious groups. Moreover, my research findings suggest that this religious revivalism among fundamentalists, Christians, Jews, and others is one of the factors that incited Western Muslims to adapt fundamentalist views which traveled East. Thus the rush of the neo scholars of Islam to attribute fundamentalist and extremist views to particular Muslim order or author, to one Muslim country, or to one people, or to Sharia, needs to be put to rest.
This is the second essential step in rethinking the crisis in understanding Islam and Muslim women. The conditions during the last decade of the 20th century were favorable and helped me and the majority of Muslim scholar activists to challenge the hijacked Islamic authority by Muslim males. Thus we have declared ourselves an independent authority in Quranic sciences, hoping that these transformative solutions will bring a meaningful reform for Muslim societies, a reform that entail building a new structure based on Islam as a world view that seeks egalitarian justice through mutual consultation of the entire community.
My feeling is that our re-interpretation of the Quran has helped raising consciousness of some. But we still have a long way to go despite the certain path that we choose to take. Why? I will only list three reasons and then close. First, our authority to interpret the Quran was hijacked by some Western fundamentalist groups when they intercepted our implementing the new meanings into actual change on the ground. The Western groups instigated their governments to pre end the work of female led NGOs in Muslim societies claiming to liberate Muslim women through wars.
For example, there are now 100s of so-called civil society organizations with 550 political parties and 125 foreign security companies in Iraq. But the conditions are worsening, especially for women. Also, since 1995, numerous national and international conferences concerning Muslim women were held, but I do not see a Muslim women movement. The few scholar activists, like myself, who are struggling or scattered geographically and linguistically and disjointed by nationalistic sectarian and ethnic or intellectual affiliations, even when we recognize that this agreement in interpretation is one of Islams core principle that helped develop a vast civilization for about 1,000 years. It is not reassuring to read the same traditional material on the website of nearly 50 different organizations speaking in the name of Muslim women.
Because it makes me realize why none of these organizations are strong enough to be able to stand up and state, for example, that the action of the scholar, [? Amino ?] [? Adud ?], who led a co-educational congregation in prayer in 2005, was justified by the Quran. The reality is that the woman who lost her identity or moral autonomy with Islam for centuries will not emerge as an emancipated woman unless she admits that she was not actually practicing Islam but an interpretation of it that was done by others.
The second reason is that Muslims have lost their ability to directly relay the message of the Quran to its principal of keeping Quranic interpretation open in time and place wherein each individual bears a responsibility and a right as stated in the first order of the Quran. The Quran state, "Read in the name of God, who created human of [? cloth. ?] Read God is most generous, the teacher who taught by the pen." Yet, the majority of Muslims are not considering or practicing the value of self-identity and self-governance as part of the Islamic ethos.
By using one tradition that's attributed to the Prophet to emphasize the extreme seclusion of women behind the head cover, which is mistakenly called hijab, or behind a curtain in a mosque, for instance, Muslims, particularly women, are ignoring the basic teaching of the Quran concerning modesty that does not necessarily require covering the hair, nor separating men and women. Third, and last, some Western feminists co-opted our work and insisted on categorizing it as "Islamic feminism." Something that I reject because the two terms contradict each other philosophically and on their knowledge base.
Feminism is a creative theory intended to regain women's right and place in society, but mainly analyzing the social construct of gender as the unit of analysis from a secular perspective. Islam, on the other hand, is an universal world view that propagates a single pair, the human pair, of a male and a female with equal rights and responsibilities spiritually, intellectually, and socially in trusteeship and leadership. The unit of analysis for Quranic interpretation is what the Quran means by the word [? tukwa, ?] or equilibrium.
Each individual, it means, is responsible for building his or her own capacity to balance all these roles in a specific time and at a specific place within the guidelines of the Quran. To summarize, Muslims and non-Muslims have become more conservative in response to the challenges from within and from without. From within the current religious rights advocates and governing authorities in Muslim and non-Muslim countries are collaborating because they feel threatened by the new interpretations, despite the fact the so-called moderate or progressive groups are still weak in vision, organization, and strategies.
Scholars isolation is also blinded by the thought that it is enough to solve some social issues even when they are not necessarily specific to Muslim women, such as literacy, education, and domestic violence. They do not see that the situation requires a change in perception and attitude on the ground in order to combat the ignorance among the public who succumb to political corruption or brainwashing. From with that, ideas of reforming Muslim societies molded after European Enlightenment or the American concept of democracy are creating further dichotomy between religious and civic affairs, causing populous unrest directly toward those who are different instead of self-reflecting and focusing on changing corrupt systems, dogmatism, and ignorance.
Western governments and private corporations complicate matters more by supporting dictatorships in Muslim countries and male leaderships in order to protect their own interests, producing further reactionary response by religious extremists on both sides who misuse weak traditions to propagate their own ends. Hence, the struggle will be difficult, long, and uncertain, but we, Muslim women scholar activists, few as we are, continue to lead the path by rethinking the Quranic message in the same prophetic spirit of tolerating people's needs in time and place. Thank you for listening. As-salamu alaykum. I'm happy--
SPEAKER 2: Thank you very much for a very provocative and throught provoking [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] talk. And I think this is about as full as I've ever been in this room. [INAUDIBLE]. Great turn out. I'm sure you'd be happy to answer some questions.
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Yes. I'm very happy to take any questions. OK. Yes. Art, please go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Is there a movement world wide or in the US to redefine or to update the Hadith, separate from the Quran but [INAUDIBLE].
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Hadith.
AUDIENCE: Is there a revised version of some sort?
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well not yet. That's what-- this is-- keep looking for my next book. And by the way, my book, Women's Identity and The Quran, A New Reading, is available in the campus store. And the campus store made a special effort to bring some extra copies for those who are interested. I'm not advertising, but just for your information. Thank you for the question. Yes. Yes, sir. Go ahead.
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well, in a way, she is in her own right, trying to do whatever she could. Another way, unfortunately, she puts her personnel experience before her specific-- before the specific guidance of how to interpret the Quran. So that's the one thing, if I see her, I would like to speak with her about. Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: I'm hopeful that [INAUDIBLE] you're writing the book [INAUDIBLE] are making some headway, making some impact. Do you have a feeling that [INAUDIBLE]?
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Yes. The book was published in 2005. And I have received at least 20 reviews, all positive. And they're mainly by scholars, Muslims or non-Muslims who are well-known in the field. But the main point which is-- I will hope to try to avoid in the next book-- is that a little bit too academic for the generally reader. And therefore, what I've done is that I've translated it into Arabic, and with the help of a translator, of course. Though, my native language is Arabic, but because the thinking of the subject was done in English, it requires someone who is well versed in the translation back and forth.
And when the publisher in Damascus, which is my native town, wanted to publish it after reading the introduction in translation, they were afraid to publish it. They said it was too radical. So I decided to take the permission from the University Press of Florida, the original publisher, and put the translation on my website. So for those who do not read English, and you know someone would read Arabic, and want to learn about the book, it is availability in its totality on my website, which is easy to locate through Google.
So-- and I tried to simplify the language a little bit for the general reader, not to make it too academic. So that's a help.
AUDIENCE: The book in Arabic is on the website, but not--
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: That's correct.
AUDIENCE: The English version is not?
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: No. It is, however available electronically to all Cornell community, the library, and the provost-- thanks to the provost, who made a special effort to request that special permission for Cornell community to have the book available electronically as well as there are few copies-- paper copies. Hard copies, that was the original translation, and the paperback copies that was published in 2007 also available in the library. Yes?
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] talk today [INAUDIBLE] website [INAUDIBLE].
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: I'm hoping that this recording of it by CornellCast, it will go on CornellCast. Now the text, I usually don't give it right away because there are many corrections along the way. Even when I'm reading it, I'm making corrections. And I like it to be as best as possible before it's given. But I will be happy in the long run maybe we could share that. Now I come to your question.
AUDIENCE: Your message really is Muslim to Muslim, is that right? And I'm wondering what we might, as a non-Muslim can do to help [INAUDIBLE]
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well, I thank you for your question and for your generous offer. Yes, everyone of you could help. When they hear someone talking about Islam, to tell them, what is your source? Just ask them, what is your source? Where are you getting your information? Just to have them question the knowledge that is-- or the information that is being passed, how accurate it is? Thank you. Yes, Nancy.
AUDIENCE: She basically asked what I'm going to ask. But, in adding to that, as a non-Muslim, what is our source for true Quranic interpretation?
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Now, there is no true interpretation. Nobody could claim there is true interpretation, otherwise, I would not be standing here. There is-- the message of the Quran, intact, in the book itself, which is being intact for the past 14 centuries, never been entered. If you want to read the Quran and it's translation, simple translation, the simplest one for the Western mind is the copy by Dalwud. That's a translation into English. The rendering of the Arabic that is originally-- I mean, the rendering of the Quran that's originally in Arabic, in English, the simplest one is in Dalwud.
There is also the translation by Muhammad [? Assid, ?] however, Muhammad [? Assid ?] translation has a lot of commentary, and that could be confusing. So the simplest, just main translation of the original text of the Arabic text of the Quran is in the last name Dalwud, now I forgot his first name. But you'll find it in the campus store. Yes, [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] religious thought or religious documents are-- people cherry pick what they want out of them. And then they say, well, this statement is in the Quran or this statement is in the Bible. And sure enough, it is. But they've totally taken it out of context. It's very difficult for us in the West to understand the context of many of these things, some things we hear that are in the Quran. So I don't know exactly how to fight that. Is it by reading the Quran? I don't know if that's what you're suggesting.
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Yes. And that's why I suggested to our friend here to ask them, what is your source? And if it is the Quran, then tell them, read me that verse and what was the context of the verse? And where did it occur? Because that's exactly the problem with Orientalism. Because they have been interpreting the Quran in peace meal or what is called automating the Quran. The same thing, unfortunately, Muslims, the past 200, 300 years have been following the same methodology, not paying attention to the totality of the Quran and it's simple message.
It is a very simple message, believing in no deity but God, as simple as that. So I cannot even accept my husband's interpretation, even though it might be better than mine, because I'm responsible for my own understanding of how I fully and responsibly apply that particular teaching in the Quran. That's as close as it comes. Yes. Yes. Brother Carson.
AUDIENCE: My question [INAUDIBLE] so far we have a lot of historical [INAUDIBLE] Quran through male dominance. And when we try to [INAUDIBLE] a female's understanding of the Quran [INAUDIBLE] scholarist [INAUDIBLE] of understanding [INAUDIBLE] but still [INAUDIBLE] to get [INAUDIBLE] of the Quran [INAUDIBLE] So is there a way to get to the context of the Quran without being made [INAUDIBLE]?
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well, that's exactly what I said. When you follow the rules of interpreting the Quran, then it doesn't matter with male or female. However, because males have been dominating this interpretation and limiting, not accepting woman's interpretation for 14 centuries, it is time that we mainstream what ever female scholars interpretation as part of the thought, the Islamic thought. That has not happened yet. This is the basic problem that I'm talking-- Yes. It does matter in certain issues where male and female perspectives differ. And we need to take that into account.
Yet, from a Quranic principles of interpretations, there is no difference whether it's a male or female, it matters that they are following the same basic principles of interpretations with an open heart, an open mind, not retrieving back to their prior knowledge of what this [? Shar ?] said or that Imam said. That's what matters. They have to rethink that process from point zero. Is that--
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Yes. We have to try, even if we may not. One more question.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] it sounds like it's so difficult to get a female perspective to the Arab world in Arabic. I mean, what you're saying is they won't publish things if you want to publish in Arabic. [INAUDIBLE].
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: Well, the power of the internet is really doing a good job. I've been receiving a lot of questions from all over through emails, which probably they did me a favor by not publishing it. Because, and that's another sad part in the Muslim and Arab world, that same publishing company that published my earlier edited book in 1996, I had an edited volume called, Muslim Identity, and The Struggle For Justice, it was also translated by the same publishing company.
They told me that about maybe 20 years ago, they used to publish 100,000 copies-- they are well known in the Arab world, so they sale and distribute all over-- when they were translating my book, they only published 1,000 copies because nobody is reading. This is the saddest part. So, of course, they had to consider the monetary thing, but, at the same time, they were so afraid and scared to publish my book. Because, unfortunately, exactly the same thing that I stated earlier, they take only-- because I critiqued one of the prophetic tradition that being not authentic, even though it is in a collection that is revered by many Muslims they said that I was too radical.
So that's the status of Muslim mind. They are not willing to accept the idea of free thinking, let alone the process of free thinking.
NIMAT HAFEZ BARAZANGI: That's the hope. The hope is with the young generation, like the young-- some of the young generations who are here today. This is the hope with them. They have to really start standing up to their right as individual, autonomous, responsible people, who have that right to re think Islam.
SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE]. Thank our speaker again.
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Muslim women all over the world have been mostly viewed as secondary and/or complementary in the structure of Muslim societies. In order to challenge and transform these un-Islamic views, women needed to retake their principal role and reinterpret the primary source of Islam, the Qur'an. In doing so during the past two decades, some American Muslim women, including myself, are transforming the conventional understanding of Islam in the hope to implement a fundamental aspect of the social justice contract between Muslims and Islam. Indeed, Muslim women are challenging the unwarranted authority, the hijacked Islamic authority by Muslim men, and moving toward accomplishing the comprehensive human rights for themselves.
This event was part of the CAPE Lecture Series.