[CIS 2.2 (2006) 129–142] Comparative Islamic Studies (print) ISSN 1740-7125 doi: 10.558/CISv2i2.

129 Comparative Islamic Studies (online) ISSN 1743-1638

“Traditional” Exegeses of Q 4:34
KAREN BAUER
Princeton University

On the whole, pre-modern scholars understand Q 4:34, Men are qawwāmūn over women, with what God has given the one more than the other, and with what they spend of their wealth, to legislate men’s authority over women in marriage. But verse 4:34 has never had a uniform interpretation, even in the pre-modern period. This paper explores variations in the content and methods of pre-modern and modern interpretations of Q 4:34, and attempts to understand the sources for, and meaning of, certain interpretations, particularly focusing on the interpretation of women’s deficient rationality [nāqi al-‘aql], taken from a hadith [saying] on the authority of the Prophet. Ultimately, I argue that neither the sources of exegesis, nor its meaning, can be attributed simply to early interpretations or the seemingly straightforward meanings of ahadith. Rather, exegetes in every age appropriate and reinterpret their heritage, giving these sources new meanings.

Introduction
On the whole, pre-modern scholars understand Q 4:34, Men are qawwāmūn1 over women, with what God has given the one more than the other, and with what they spend of their wealth, to legislate men’s authority over women in marriage. But Q 4:34 has never had a uniform interpretation, even in the premodern period. This paper explores variations in the content and methods of pre-modern and modern interpretations of Q 4:34, and attempts to understand the sources for, and meaning of, certain interpretations. Ultimately, neither the sources of exegesis, nor its meaning, can be attributed simply to early interpretations or the seemingly straightforward meanings of ahadith [sayings attributed to the Prophet]. Rather, exegetes in every age appropriate and reinterpret their heritage. This paper begins by exploring some of the variations in the content and methods of pre-modern interpretation, focusing on the ways in which content and method developed through time in the genre of the Qur’an commentary [tafsīr al-Qur’ān]. It is important to see certain developments in the content of exegesis as connected to developments in methods of interpretation. But it is also necessary to attempt to understand accurately the content of these interpretations: knowing that there was development in methods interpreting does not
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really help the reader today to understand what the exegetes actually meant. Thus, after exploring the ways in which method affects content in the first section of the paper, the second section examines what the exegetes may have meant by saying that women were deficient in rationality, a common claim in pre-modern texts which is especially jarring to many modern readers. Rather than offering up a straightforward reading of the term “rationality,” this section shows that its pre-modern definition was contested. Some pre-modern interpretations disappear in the modern age, but some, such as the saying that women are deficient in rationality, are retained. Wholesale preservation of pre-modern interpretations seems to indicate that modern interpretations are stagnant, or that they simply copy from the pre-modern heritage. Yet such use of tradition may be more complex than it appears. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Syria, the third section of this paper explores differences in how pre-modern and modern exegetes use the term “rational deficiency,” showing that when pre-modern interpretations appear in modern works, they take on modern meanings. Modern exegetes’ selective quoting and reinterpretation of the pre-modern tradition enables them to confirm modern notions and values. Thus, pre-modern and modern exegetes have a common method of selectively drawing on sources and precedent: they work with their heritage in order to forge interpretations that, on the one hand, preserve continuity with the past, and on the other, are relevant to their particular milieu. But just as there was not a single uniform view of this verse in the pre-modern interpretations, nor is there in the modern interpretations. Exploring clerics’ differences and similarities can reveal the influences of their milieu on the production of interpretation. Development in Pre-modern Interpretations This section consists of a brief overview of some of the ways in which interpretations of Q 4:34 developed in the pre-modern period. There were significant changes in the interpretations’ content over time. One way of explaining such changes would be to say that later exegetes had different ideas of women’s natures and their roles than early exegetes did. But I argue that such a radical change in attitudes between early and later exegetes is unlikely. Instead, some of the developments in the content of exegesis can be attributed to exegetes’ changing methods. Because their ideas of the proper methods of interpreting the verse changed through time, so did the substance of their interpretations. The earliest exegeses of 4:34 tend to explain the meanings of the verse, without explaining its logic further than quoting its “occasion of revelation” (the description of when the verse was revealed). Thus, a typical early exegesis, such as that of ‘Alī b. Abī $al a (d. 143/760) says that men are women’s commanders [‘umarā’] and that women must obey in those matters that God
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has legislated. What concerns Ibn Abī $al a are the practical implications of the verse: men’s and women’s roles and specific actions. The woman’s obedience seems to be limited to her behavior towards her husband’s family, and to respecting his property:
God said that men are qawwāmūn over women, meaning commanders [‘umarā’]. It is necessary for women to obey men in matters where God has commanded their obedience. And obedience is that women must treat their husband’s family well, and preserve his property.2

Ibn Abī Tal a focuses on the practical applications of this verse: men are women’s commanders, and women owe men obedience, which is well-defined. This approach is typical of the earliest exegeses, which tend to describe specific rules associated with this verse, and to explain how it applies to daily life. Although this and other early works are fragmentary, it is still important to note that neither women’s obedience, nor men’s command, is unlimited. No explanation is provided as to why the verse says what it does. This particular interpretation can be found in several early exegeses, including those of the Shī‘ī alQummī (d. 308/920); and the Sunnī al-$abarī (d. 311/923). The next part of 4:34 reads: with what God has given some more than others. Al-$abarī explains this part of the verse by saying:
Meaning, with what God has made men superior to their wives: men give [their wives] their dowries, and spend on them from their property, and provide them with provisions. That is the superiority [taf īl] given by God Almighty to men over women, and because of that they became their maintainers [qawwām], executors of the command over them concerning those matters that God gave to them to command.3

Like ‘Alī b. Abī $al a, al-$abarī specifically limits men’s authority: men are the executors of command in certain matters legislated by God. In al-$abarī’s exegesis, men’s advantage is defined as their monetary support of their wives, because of which women must obey them in certain matters. He focuses on actual rules, and does not explain why men have been given a monetary or legal preference. In the generation or two of exegetes after al-$abarī, there is a methodological shift in the way tafsīr is written. In these slightly later exegeses, explaining the reasons behind a verse becomes important to the exegetical enterprise. This leads to a dramatic change in the types of interpretations given of this verse: they now consist of explanations of why men and women occupy their respective roles. The exegesis of Abū ’l-Layth al-Samarqandī, who died 60 years after al-$abarī, in 370/985, provides a good example of this new way of writing tafsīr.
God gave men the right of being in charge of women, because men have more rationality than women do. It is said that men have strength in their
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Whereas al-$abarī focuses on specific applications of male authority, such as giving women the dowry, and supporting them financially, Abū ’l-Layth alSamarqandī cites mental and physical explanations for men’s authority: men are more rational than women, and men’s natures are hot and dry, and thus full of strength and power, whereas women’s are moist and cold, in other words weak and soft. Only one of Abū ’l-Layth’s explanations was destined to endure. First asserted by the ancient Greeks, the notion that women have moist, cold natures did not gain much currency in classical Islamic exegeses.5 On the other hand, the statement of women’s deficient rationality [nāqi āt al-‘aql]—only rarely cited in Abū ’l-Layth’s time, and not cited by al-$abarī at all—eventually becomes extremely widespread. Exegetes after Abū al-Layth’s generation almost invariably mention women’s deficient rationality to explain why men are superior to them and thus have been put in authority over them. For example, the Mālikī jurist Ibn al-‘Arabī, who died in 543/1148, speaks of God having made men superior in two ways, mentally and religiously:
The meaning [of the verse] is that the guardianship of woman was given to men, because men possess two types of superiority [over women]. The first: perfection in rationality [kamāl al-‘aql] and discernment [tamyīz]. The second: perfection in religion and religious duties, in undertaking the jihad, the commanding of right and forbidding of wrong in general [‘alā al‘umūm], and also other matters. This is what the Prophet clarified when he said: “I haven’t seen people more deficient in reason and religion, who can go straight to the hearts of upright men, than you women.”6

Ibn al-‘Arabī’s citation of the mental and religious differences between men and women is no accident: he explains that these interpretations have their basis in a prophetic saying [hadith] appearing in the Sa ī collection of al-Bukhārī. This hadith declares that though women are deficient in rationality [nāqi āt al‘aql] and in religion, they are still able to “go straight to the hearts of upright men.” (This hadith is referred to hereafter as the “rational deficiency hadith.”) These exegeses exemplify three wider trends in interpretations of 4:34. The first two trends have to do with the nature of the development of exegesis: certain early exegeses are left out of later works, and later exegesis develops in ways that could not be predicted by reading early exegeses. ‘Alī b. Abī $al a’s exegesis, that women’s obedience consists of good manners towards the husband’s family, resurfaces only infrequently after al-$abarī’s citation; when it
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does come up it sits amid a list of wives’ other, often stricter, duties, such as the duty to remain inside the house. By the modern age, the interpretation had been relegated to the dustbin of history. Modern exegetes usually do not cite it. It seems that although al-$abarī’s compendium was a major source for later authors, their choice of what to include in their own works is affected by content: it could be that Ibn Abī $al a’s exegesis limiting the scope of husbands’ control no longer rang true to later generations. The second interpretive trend is that, although certain attitudes may have been shared between early and later exegetes, the content of exegesis develops in a way that is unpredictable given the early texts alone. For example, early assertions of husbands’ authority do not predict later assertions that women are less rational than men. Together, these two trends indicate that it is problematic to attribute a causal relationship between the earliest and later exegeses, as is done when authors speak of early exegesis as the basis for what comes after. The third trend illustrated by the examples above has to do with content. The earliest exegetes seem to be “fair” towards women, by limiting their obedience and not commenting on the reasons for men’s position of authority, while later ones seem to have suddenly and concurrently decided that men are inherently better than women, thereby justifying men’s authority. But such a radical transformation in attitudes is doubtful: it is more likely that the attitude towards women’s deficiencies was shared by most pre-modern exegetes, only it was not mentioned in the earlier works. The evidence demonstrates that at some point after al-$abarī, the methodological shift described above, from a focus on application to a focus on explanation, can account for the prevalence of interpretations in later works which refer to women’s deficiencies as an explanation for women’s roles. This is not to say that there was no variation in exegetes’ opinions: as I showed above, the exegeses which limited men’s authority seem actually to disappear in later ages, indicating that exegetes’ ideas may have been growing more restrictive through time. Yet not all developments should be understood to indicate a radical change in the prevailing view of women’s status or roles. In some cases, changes in content are due to changes in method, and the exegetes’ decision to include different types of proof, such as ahadith on the authority of the Prophet. What Do These Interpretations Really Mean? But understanding that exegetes’ methods and interpretations change through time still leaves the real question unanswered: what did the exegetes mean by their explanations? Were these explanations, which seem misogynistic to many readers today, intended to be statements of the anti-woman attitudes of the premodern exegetes?

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I will briefly explore these questions through exegetes’ citation of the rational deficiency hadith in their explanations of 4:34. To many modern ears, the statement that women are deficient in rationality sounds misogynistic, but it could be that the pre-modern exegetes had a different view. Unfortunately, they do not offer many explanations of the meaning of this hadith, and thus the question of what they really meant remains largely unanswered. I therefore argue that, rather than simply dismissing them as misogynistic, interpreting these premodern texts requires further research into what the exegetes may have meant by their seemingly straightforward words. The nature of rationality was intensely debated in the pre-modern period. However, that debate does not seem to be applicable to the sort of rationality discussed by these exegetes. In his work Adab al-dunyā wa’l-dīn, the exegete, philosopher, and jurist Abū ’l-Óasan al-Māwardī (d. 450/1058) describes his view that rationality is an “understanding of necessary things,”7 which is gained by apprehension of the world in two ways: the sensory faculties, and the understanding of certain a priori knowledge, such as knowing that two is more than one, and that a thing cannot be both itself and its opposite.8 This type of knowledge, he says, enables discernment of right from wrong, good from bad—it provides a moral compass to guide one through the world.9 As he defines it, rationality is a human quality, not one possessed by men alone. Yet al-Māwardī claims that women are rationally deficient in his work of exegesis.10 It is difficult to reconcile these views, and it can only be done if we accept that there is one type of rationality which distinguishes humans from animals, and another (which remains undefined) in which women are deficient. Another way to understand women’s deficient rationality is to explore books of law to see how this quality plays out in jurists’ discussions of women’s ability to perform the functions of judge and muftī.11 According to one school of law, the Óanafīs, women could be judges, and according to all schools of law, women could give valid opinions on the law: they could be muftīyas.12 Mohammed Fadel has used this fact to argue that pre-modern jurists did not attribute a “general intellectual inferiority” to women.13 But it seems that many premodern scholars did believe women to be rationally deficient. Jurists of schools other than the Óanafī school use women’s deficient rationality to justify their rulings against women judging, without accounting for the fact that women can be muftīyas.14 In the juridical texts that I have reviewed on women judging, most Óanafī authors do not say that women are deficient in rationality.15 This seems to make sense because the Óanafīs allow women to be judges. However, authors of works of exegesis who adhere to the Óanafī school of law often say that women are deficient in rationality, thereby explaining why men have been put in authority.16 While women’s deficient rationality is not usually the only rationale adduced by jurists and exegetes to explain why women should not be

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in a position of authority over men, it is often a prominent part of such explanations. In the formulation of many non-Óanafī jurists, rationality is a quality necessary for positions of authority, such as that of judge; because a muftī’s opinions are non-binding, the post of muftī does not entail the authority that judging does. Thus, according to them, women can be muftīs, but not judges. Yet this explanation does not remove the prima facie contradiction: if the position of judging requires rationality that women do not have, the position of muftī should also—for a muftī forms legal opinions using independent reasoning, whereas a judge enacts those legal opinions in the settling of disputes; the post of muftī requires a higher order of mental reasoning than that of a judge.17 Although this subject needs more research, it is clear is that a simple reading of the term “rationality” according to the modern conception of that word probably does not encompass what the pre-modern exegetes meant by it. On the whole, the exegetes thought that men possessed qualities that women did not. It is another question as to whether this makes them misogynistic in the sense of woman-hating. Variation in Modern Interpretations of Q 4:34 If the pre-modern definition of rationality is hardly transparent, today’s definition, at least as used by the clerics to explain this verse, is not straightforward either. Indeed, it seems that many modern exegetes who quote the rational deficiency hadith would concurrently see themselves as actively upholding women’s rights. Clerics in Syria today seem initially to be divided into two groups—conservative and reformist—stances which seem to be apparent from their attitudes towards women and towards the pre-modern traditional past. For instance, several recent articles in English have introduced a general American audience to a Syrian cleric named Mu ammad al-Óabash, a tweed-suit-wearing Islamic reformer; he is portrayed in the New York Times as a much-needed voice of change and moderation in the Middle East.18 His liberal attitude towards women is notable among his reformist tendencies: he and his associates speak of women as men’s “equal partners.”19 Al-Óabash’s intellectual opposite is turban-and-cloak-clad Sa‘īd Ramadan al-Bū ī. True to his conservative image, al-Bū ī quotes pre-modern sources, and seems to hold medieval views towards women, whom he says are rationally deficient;20 his traditional dress and attitudes show his adherence to a traditional past. A well-known paradigm is at work here, apparent in both the popular press and in scholarly articles: the reformist looks and seems Western and “modern” in his views; the conservative emerges from and hearkens back to a presumably homogenous and unchanged pre-modern tradition. But when it comes to clerics’ attitudes towards the rational deficiency hadith and towards women’s roles, this
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paradigm is not entirely accurate. Instead, conservatives take modern re-interpretations of pre-modern views, and reformists do not reject all pre-modern interpretations, but rather seek to work with the pre-modern heritage.21 The rational deficiency hadith is often quoted in modern sources to illustrate the differences between women and men; it is the subject of a lively debate between the conservative al-Bū ī and the reformist al-Óabash. Modern clerics’ responses to this hadith are indicative of the many ways in which they respond to the pre-modern heritage, especially when that heritage seems to counteract directly the evidence of the modern world that women and men perform equally well in intellectual settings such as the university. In his book on women, in which he discusses Q 4:34, al-Bū ī upholds the validity of the hadith. He explains that when the Prophet told women that they were deficient in rationality and religion, he was simply joking around with them, the way that you joke with good friends. Yet the joke has a serious side: its true meaning is that women’s rational sense may become overwhelmed by their strong emotions, whereas men are able to maintain a cool head under pressure.22 This is one of the modern conservative explanations of natural differences between the sexes which are, as far as my research showed, almost universally accepted among Syrian clerics today: women are more emotional than men, and are naturally suited to certain tasks. Clerics whom I interviewed did not assert that women cannot think or reason, but rather offered various explanations for the ways in which women differ from men. Rātib Al-Nabulsī, a prominent television preacher on Syrian TV, told me that men have a type of understanding that women lack [idrāk]; yet he admits that women do just as well as men in university classes and he does not consider these two facts a contradiction.23 Others say that the difference has to do with decision making; still others say that women’s and men’s minds are the same, other than women’s overpowering emotions, which would sway them, for instance, if they felt sorry for a witness in court.24 Some clerics also point out that women can be expert witnesses in court—another example of how women’s intellects are sound— but that they should not be allowed to be witnesses in a case of murder, when the horror of the event would cause their emotions to overwhelm their rational minds. Several conservative clerics said that women could and should give advice to their husbands. One asserted that when a husband disregards his wife’s sound advice, he goes against the spirit of the law which places him in charge of her: although she must abide by his decision, he is morally and legally in the wrong for not following her guidance. These varied conservative interpretations of women’s deficient rationality are heavily colored by modern ways of thinking and the realities of modern life, taking into account the reality of both sexes’ access to university education and work.25 They serve to justify a slightly modified version of the most widespread pre-modern understanding of men’s role. The necessity for men financially to
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maintain women is shared between pre-modern and modern texts, but, rather than saying that men are women’s “commanders,” many modern authors will say that men are in charge of the household, or that they have the final say in disputes. Conservatives grapple with pre-modern texts and give these texts modern interpretations. But the modern interpretations still serve to support the “traditional” balance of power in the household: men’s status in the house as final decision makers, in charge, or leaders is justified by their innate natures differing from women’s in important ways, some of which were expressed by the Prophet in the rational deficiency hadith. Clerics who describe themselves as reformists, like Mu ammad al-Óabash, take pains to explain the importance of women’s roles in the public sector, as members of the government, judges, and in the workplace more generally. And al-Óabash claims in his book on women that the rational deficiency hadith is invalid—it could not have been said by the Prophet, because it simply doesn’t make sense. The Prophet consulted women, and took their advice; how could he have thought that their intellects were in any way deficient? On the face of it, the differences between the reformist and the conservative clerics seem to reside in their attitudes towards tradition: al-Bū ī seems to accept wholesale the pre-modern past, as embodied by the women’s deficiency hadith, whereas al-Óabash challenges the pre-modern past even down to this widely accepted authenticated hadith. Indeed, in terms of their spoken intent, these two clerics place themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum when dealing with the pre-modern past; and their attitudes to tradition seem to be directly correlated to their attitudes towards women: either medieval-minded, or modern. However, their actual responses to the pre-modern heritage are not divided on such even lines, and neither is there an absolute divide between conservatives and reformists in terms of women’s roles. Although women’s participation in the public sphere is a platform for reformist action, women’s rights within the household are not the subject of much overt disputation between reformists and conservatives.26 I have shown how the conservatives refit pre-modern arguments to fit with modern sensibilities: but what is the reformist attitude towards the pre-modern heritage? Although he rejects an authenticated hadith, Mu ammad al-Óabash does not reject the pre-modern heritage outright. It is true that some of his opinions seem to have little relation to traditional discourses: most prominently he advocates a doctrine of “universal salvation,” which states that other religions may offer valid paths to God.27 But other opinions of his have precedent, and where that is the case, he advocates drawing on pre-modern sources selectively in order to support his views. For example, in order to support the doctrine that women have been prophets in Islam, he quotes pre-modern interpretations. The process of quoting from opinions that have been rejected by generations of subsequent scholars is a part of al-Óabash’s vision of renewing
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Islam. And some initiatives of his are directly supported by the majority opinion in pre-modern sources. This is the case with his recent initiative to recognize women as muftiyas, which he is pursuing along with Syrian Grand Mufti A mad Óassoun. Yet, while the importance of women’s public role is emphasized by reformist clerics, challenging women’s roles at home does not seem to be the source of much activism. In fact, the majority interpretation of qawwāmūn as meaning that men are in charge of the household and have the final say in disputes seems to be shared between conservatives and reformists. In order to gain a clearer insight into this branch of the Syrian reformist attitude towards women’s household roles, I had extensive discussions on this topic with Mu ammad alÓabash’s sister Hudā al-Óabash, who teaches women’s lessons at the Zahra mosque where Mu ammad preaches. She explained to me that, although there should be consultation between the spouses, in the case of a real dispute the husband’s word will prevail.28 Incidentally, her own husband is very supportive of her role as a women’s mosque leader, and of all that that entails, including her international travel while he remains at home.29 But whatever the egalitarian nature of their personal relationship, the fact remains that in the rhetorical realm she grants him the authority over final decision making, while expecting him financially to support the household. They thus enact what they consider to be the proper balance in the household. His right to the final say, plus his financial maintenance, means that he is qawwām over her. Although there are actual and important differences of opinion between the clerics mentioned in this article, labeling them as “reformist” or “conservative,” especially on the basis of their public advocacy for women’s issues, is more problematic than it first appears. This is especially true in a society in which the broad cultural understanding of women’s household roles may be shared even across confessional lines. Furthermore, the public stances of Syrian reformist and conservative clerics are influenced by a complex web of issues, including response to the West, ties with the government, the changing conditions of modern life (in which women work, travel, and attend university), their own cultural milieu, and their quest for followers and support. Conclusion In both the pre-modern and the modern periods, the specific discourse on women opens the door to the wider question of how sources are used and appropriated in each age, by clerics of different schools of law and ideological affiliations. While it may be tempting to view appropriation as a solely modern phenomenon, it is, in fact, a method employed by both pre-modern and modern scholars. Determining the sources for interpretation is not a simple matter of

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examining the heritage and deriving an inevitable outcome; development, change, and reinterpretation are important parts of the process from age to age. Appropriation and reinterpretation does not necessarily mean assigning one fixed meaning to a part of the heritage. Rather, as in the case of the citation of women’s deficient rationality, certain aspects of the heritage may be rejected by some clerics, and appropriated in numerous ways by others. The pre-modern and modern variation in possible interpretations of the term “rationality” makes it a particularly important locus of discussion. Through such loci of conflict it is possible to see that, although exegetes of all ages share certain traits, their methods and content may differ considerably. Yet, while modern conservative interpretations are not homogenous representations of a homogenous past, neither are reformist interpretations complete rejections of that past. Rather, in each case, as in the pre-modern sources themselves, certain aspects of the heritage form a part of the current discourse. The similarities between interpretations indicate common religious and cultural understandings, and the nuanced variations between them counter the notion of one specific “orthodox” view. Notes
1. 2. 3. 4. This term is difficult to translate; it can mean either being a supporter of, or in charge of, or both. ‘Alī ibn Abī Talha, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al-karīm (reconstructed from later sources); ed. Rashid ‘Abd al-Mun‘aim (Cairo: Maktabat al-Sunna, 1991). Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān ‘ān tā’wīl āy al-Qur’ān, vol. 8, ed. Shākir and Shākir (1950), 290. Abū ’l-Layth al-Samarqandī, Ba r al-‘ulūm (tafsīr al-Samarqandī), vol. 1, ed. Al-Shaykh ‘Alī Mu ammad Mas‘ūd et al. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutūb al-‘Ilmīya, 1993), 351. Scientific explanations based on physical evidence have often been used in exegeses of this verse—this seems to be the earliest such explanation. Abū Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabī, A kām al-Qur’ān, vol. 1, ed. Mu ammad Bajāwī (Cairo: Īsā al-Bābī, 1967), 416. Abū ’l-Hasan al-Māwardī, Adab al-dunyā wa’l-dīn, vol. 1, ed. ‘Abdallāh A mad Abū Zayna (Cairo: Matba‘ Dār al-Sha‘b, n.d.), 22. Al-Māwardī, Adab al-dunyā wa’l-dīn, 23. Al-Māwardī, Adab al-dunyā wa’l-dīn, 23–24. Al-Māwardī, al-Nukāt wa’l-‘uyūn, tafsīr al-Māwardī, vol. 1, ed. Sa‘īd b. ‘Abd al-Maq ūr b. ‘abd al-Ra īm (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmīya, 1992), 480. In this discussion, I am not attempting to ascertain the cause of these laws; rather I am analyzing women’s deficient rationality as it is used to justify the laws in post-formative jurisprudence. A strong case can be made that the cause of the laws is entirely different from the rationales used to justify them. See Behnam

5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

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12.

13. 14.

15. 16.

17. 18.

19.

20.

Sadeghi, “The Structure of Reasoning in Post-formative Jurisprudence (Case Studies in Hanafī Laws on Women and Prayer)” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2006). A muftī is someone who is entitled to give non-binding legal opinions, as opposed to a judge, whose legal opinions are binding. Most schools of law, including the Shāfi‘ī school to which al-Māwardī belongs, do not allow women to be judges, but allow them to be muftīs. In his A kām al-qādī, al-Māwardī says that judges can and should consult muftīs, including women, before issuing their opinions. But he also repeats his assertion that women should not hold the post of judge because of their deficient rationality. Mohammad Fadel, “Two Women, One Man: Knowledge, Power, and Gender in Medieval Sunni Legal Thought,” IJMES 29, no. 2 (1997): 194. For instance, the Óanbalī Ibn Abī al-Qāsim explains the situation thus: “A judge presides over gatherings of disputants and of men, and for this far sightedness, perfection of intellect, and sagacity are necessary. Women are deficient in rationality [‘aql] and are short sighted, [thus] they are not qualified to preside over gatherings of men.” Ibn Abī al-Qāsim, al-Wādi fī shar Mukhta ar alKhiraqī, vol. 5 (Beirut: Dār al-Khidr, 2000), 201. Although, as Fadel points out, some jurists do say that women are a source of temptation, and thus must not leave their houses to judge, some of these jurists also say that women are deficient in rationality. With the exception of al-Sirakhsī in his Kitāb al-mab ū (Cairo: al-Óajj Mu ammad Effendī Sāsī al-Maghribī, n.d.), 109–10. For example, al-Ja ā , the author of an A kām al-Qur’ān, or work of the legal rulings associated with certain verses, says that women are rationally deficient in his exegesis of 4:34 (Abū Bakr Ahmad b. ‘Alī al-Jassās, A kām al-Qur’ān, vol. 2, ed. ‘Abd al-Ra mān Mu ammad [Cairo: al-Ma ba‘a al-Bahīya, 1928], 229). Works of law and works of exegesis have different aims, but the distinction between them can be blurred in works in the genre of a kām al-Qur’ān, which describe the legal rulings associated with each Qur’anic verse. Al-Ja ā can thus be considered both an exegete and a jurist. In an article forthcoming in JAOS, I discuss why rationally deficient women were allowed to be muftīyas and judges in pre-modern Islamic law. Nicholas Blanford, “Syrian Reformer Rankles Islamists,” Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2005; Michael Slackman, “Syria imposing stronger curbs on opposition,” New York Times, April 6, 2006; Paul Heck, “Religious Renewal in Syria: The Case of Muhammad al-Habash”, Journal of Islam and Muslim– Christian Relations 15, no. 4 (2004): 185–207. For instance, al-Habash’s niece Enas al-Kaldi is quoted as expressing such views in a recent New York Times article by Katherine Zoepf, “Islamic Revival in Syria is Led by Women,” New York Times, August 29, 2006. See his book, Women Between The Tyranny of the Western System and the Mercy of Islamic Law (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 2003).

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“Traditional” Exegeses of Q 4:34

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21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

26.

27.

28. 29.

Al-Óabash’s attitude towards tradition is well documented by Heck, “Religious Renewal in Syria: The Case of Muhammad al-Habash.” Al-Bū ī, Women Between the Tyranny of the Western System and the Mercy of Islamic law, 253–59. Interview, September 20, 2004. For instance, the Lebanese Shi‘i Fadlallah holds this opinion. Much has been written about modern appropriation of pre-modern discourses. A discussion particularly germane to the topic of this article is in Kecia Ali’s “Progressive Muslims and Islamic Jurisprudence: The Necessity for Critical Engagement with Marriage and Divorce Law,” in Progressive Muslims, ed. Omid Safi (Oxford: Oneworld, 2003), 163–89. It should be noted that there are a few exceptions to this statement, and all statements below, about reformists. The diversity of reformist views in Syria is a topic that I hope to explore in future work. This doctrine, and Mu ammad al-Óabash’s doctrine of renewal, is particularly well described by Heck in his “Religious Renewal in Syria: The Case of Muhammad al-Habash.” Interviews with Huda al-Óabash, September and October, 2004. Interview, December 2006, and personal observation.

References
Ali, Kecia. “Progressive Muslims and Islamic Jurisprudence: The Necessity for Critical Engagement with Marriage and Divorce Law.” In Progressive Muslims, ed. Omid Safi, 163–89. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003. Al-Būtī, M. Sa‘īd Ramadān. Women Between the Tyranny of the Western System and the Mercy of Islamic Law. Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 2003. Blanford, Nicholas. “Syrian Reformer Rankles Islamists.” Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2005. Fadel, Mohammad. “Two Women, One Man.” IJMES 29, no. 2 (1997): 185–204. Heck, Paul. “Religious Renewal in Syria: The Case of Muhammad al-Habash.” Journal of Islam and Muslim–Christian Relations 15, no. 4 (2004): 185–207. doi: 10.1080/0959641042000192792 Ibn Abī $al a, ‘Alī. Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al-karīm (reconstructed from later sources), ed. Rashid ‘Abd al-Mun‘aim. Cairo: Maktabat al-Sunna, 1991. Ibn Abī al-Qāsim. al-Wādi fī shar Mukhta ar al-Khiraqī, vol. 5, Beirut: Dār al-Khidr, 2000. Ibn al-‘Arabī, Abū Bakr. A kām al-Qur’ān, vol. 1, ed. Mu ammad Bajāwī. Cairo: Īsā al-Bābī, 1967. Al-Jassās, Abū Bakr Ahmad b. ‘Alī. A kām al-Qur’ān, vol. 2, ed. ‘Abd al-Ra mān Mu ammad. Cairo: al-Ma ba‘a al-Bahīya, 1928. Al-Māwardī, Abū ’l-Hasan. Adab al-dunyā wa’l-dīn, vol. 1, ed. ‘Abdallāh A mad Abū Zayna. Cairo: Matba‘ Dār al-Sha‘b, n.d. Al-Māwardī, Abū ’l-Hasan. al-Nukāt wa’l-‘uyūn, tafsīr al-Māwardī, vol. 1, ed. Sa‘īd b. ‘Abd al-Maq ūr b. ‘abd al-Ra īm. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmīya, 1992.

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Al-Samarqandī, Abū ’l-Layth. Ba r al-‘ulūm (tafsīr al-Samarqandī), vol. 1, ed. Al-Shaykh ‘Alī Mu ammad Mas‘ūd et al. Beirut: Dār al-Kutūb al-‘Ilmīya, 1993. Sadeghi, Behnam. The Structure of Reasoning in Post-formative Jurisprudence (Case Studies in Óanafī Law on Women and Prayer). Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2006. Al-Sirakhsī. Kitāb al-mab ū . Cairo: al-Óajj Mu ammad Effendī Sāsī al-Maghribī, n.d. Slackman, Michael. “Syria Imposing Stronger Curbs on Opposition.” New York Times, April 6, 2006. Ibn Jarīr Al-$abarī. Jāmi ‘al-bayān ‘ān tā’wīl āy al-Qur’ān, vol. 8, ed. Shākir and Shākir, 1950. Zoepf, Katherine. “Islamic Revival in Syria is Led by Women.” New York Times, August 29, 2006.

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