Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dr. Jamal Badawi Lecture Tommorrow at 7:00, Grainger 1100

Jamal Badawi is coming to town tomorrow as an invited guest of the Muslim Student Association. Badawi is an Egyptian born, Canadian professor who has risen to become a prolific North American writer, lecturer, and activist on Islamic issues. He's also an active leader in groups such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and is the founder/chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation.

Badawi preaches a peaceful, non-violent form of Islam that we all wish was the mainstream. Unfortunately, Badawi seems more successful in convincing non-Muslims that Islam is the religion of peace than he does convincing Muslims. I would contend that more than two decades of Badawi's lectures have distracted Westerners as to the true nature of the radical Islamic threat more than it has improved their understanding of Islam.

I think that most non-Muslims familiar with Badawi would count him among the moderates or even liberal Muslims on the North American lecture circuit. He has never been one to openly call for Sharia or destruction of Israel, at least not that I know of. His thoughts on Apostasy are quite progressive, see here. Still, he has said and published some things that I do find controversial and perhaps it is useful to examine them while keeping in mind that these are the statements of a Moderate Muslim.

For example, Badawi's publications on gender (in)equity in Islam are ubiquitous in academic discussions of women in Islam. In his 1995 book, Gender Equity in Islam, Badawi tries to explain away the controversial passage of the Quran (4:34) where Allah calls on Muslim men to beat their wives:

In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur'an 4:19). If the problem relates to the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers.

There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and
expresses contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure then a punitive one. Following is the related Qur'anic text:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women. because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) do not share their beds, (and last) beat (tap) them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (4:34)

This may appear to be a reasonable approach to the awkward an often embarrassing passage in the Quran. After all, Badawi is interpretation sounds generous – don't beat your wives, just tap them lightly "symbolically." Notice, however, that the words "tap" and "lightly" are his additions to the Quranic text, not Allah's. His arguments may sugarcoat this passage for western ears but they do little to assist the Yemeni woman who's husband reads a Quran lacking in Badawi's parenthetical insertions.

Moreover, if one really thinks about what Badawi is saying – that is not just alright, but actually required behavior for men to "tap" there wives to punish them, to physically touch their wives when they are angry… shouldn't that set off some bells for feminists. I for one grew up in a school system and culture that emphatically emphasizes the fact that it is NEVER, EVER acceptable for a man to place a hand on a woman. It's even codified in our legal system. I would argue that Badawi's "tap" is 4th degree physical assault but I digress.

The point I am trying so miserably to make is that here we have a Moderate Muslim, a favorite among American academics, who is justifying and defending the duty of Muslim men, as set forth in the Quran, to lay hands on their wives for disobedience. Why is this not an issue for feminists?

I have one more thing to say about Badawi's "tap" before I move on. Leftist Western Islamic Scholars like Badawi or Karen Armstrong often translate the Arabic word Idrib in this section of the Quran to mean something like "tap." Idrib is used repeatedly in the Quran. In nearly every use of the word it clearly comes across as meaning to beat, scourge, or strike (hard), as in, “strike (Idrib) off their heads, strike (Idrib) off the very tips of their fingers!” – Quran (8:12)

I would like Badawi to explain how one would go about “tapping” off the head of some poor 8th century Jewish tribesman. How exactly would a good Muslim warrior “tap” off the tips of some Quraysh goat herder's fingers?

The solution to gender inequity in Islam is not to deny its existence by sugarcoating text in the Quran. It is not to transform "strike" into "tap," although I wish it was that easy. A more plausible solution is to take a step back as Muslims like Irshad Manji have and say hey, that was then this is now. In the 21st Century, particularly if you're living in a western society, it is just not acceptable behavior to tap on your wives – no matter what the Quran requires.

At any rate, Badawi should inspire an interesting and informative discussion of various Islamic issues. I will be attending the lecture, tomorrow night at 7:00 pm in Grainger 1100 and encourage you to as well.


ADAM JAMES said...

There is an essential problem with Irshad Manji. And it has nothing to do with her character, personal morality, religious devotion, etc. Whether or not her populism is good or bad is another question. The problem is that people take her arguments as though they are coming from an intellectual. It is much worse than what you criticize 'liberals' so much for. Jamal Badawi is an accredited scholar. He is a popular scholar. He is a scholar Muslims of North America respect and trust. Yet your arguments across this blog continually chide liberals with believing this 'moderate' islam, or this 'peaceful' islam, or this 'peaceful' jihad presented by people like Dr. Badawi. But here you take a person like Irshad, who is not an Islamic scholar, and tell Muslims to look towards her. Fair enough, there may be times when she makes a point. But I find there to be no reason to take in good faith anything of what she says when compared to people such as Dr. Badawi. She writes a book about ijtihad that isn't about ijtihad, at least puts in a completely false context, and then people think that's what muslims should be like. Like her, the Muslim who says it is okay to not pray. Yes, it is okay in the sense that you have the choice. But where is the legal basis for that? And if there is, does she understand it? You should take Jamal Badawi seriously, and also look at him critically. Your criticism is well taken, and something you should perhaps find a way to get personally addressed by him. Or find other scholars to compare with. Irshad Manji can live whatever life she wants to live, but I am sick of people making her out to be the ideal muslim.

amlh2000 said...

Maybe the Islam of the olden days was about humiliting people however todays Islam is about raising the Station of everyone.

Rising to our Station of Messiah, Mehdi, Prophet, Trustee, Care Giver, Gaurdian and Messenger.

This is a Duty and Responsibility of all Mankind not just some of us.

I took an Islamic Traditions Class from Dr. Badawi back in 1995 and it was just the beginning of my understanding and appreciating the positive possibilities in Islam.


Anne Marie Elderkin
The Earth Personified is Risen

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