FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS
OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
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Dr. Hassan's March 29 Columbia Address
EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 29, 2000, Dr. Riffat Hassan was invited to address a meeting sponsored by the Muslim Students Association of Columbia University in New York. In her presentation she discussed the fundamental theological assumptions on which the alleged inferiority of women to men rests in the Islamic, as well as the Jewish and Christian, traditions. She pointed out that a correct reading of the Qur'an (from a non-patriarchal perspective) left no doubt that man and woman had been created equal by God and that there was no religious or ethical justification whatever for discriminating against women. Challenging the position both of those Muslims who deny that Muslim women have any problems and of those who assert that human rights and Islam are incompatible, Dr. Hassan stated that the Qur'an strongly affirms all fundamental human rights and that it is very protective of the rights of women and other disadvantaged groups of people. Focussing on the issue of violence toward girls and women in Pakistan and a number of other Muslim countries, Dr. Hassan pointed out that evil practices such as "honor-killings" could not be legitimized with reference to Islam or any other religion. She urged the audience to become members of the INRFVVP and join the struggle to secure the rights of female victims of violence in Pakistan and in Muslim communities generally.
Given below is a letter sent by Shayhka Maulani Aeisha Muhammad Al-Khayr who attended the event and sent a mail about it. The comment by Muhammad Naseer to whom the Shayhka is responding is also included as is the notice posted by M.S.A. Columbia University.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: a female theologian's different viewpoint [Aeisha replies Kamran]
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 18:20:35 -0500
From: "AEISHA786" <[email protected]>
To: "MSA-EC" <[email protected]>
As-Salaamu' Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu
Dear [email protected]:
Do I detect a note of condescension in your writing?
Dr. Riffat Hassan is a native of Pakistan. She has had extensive training in the Quran from the Maulanas of her country in addition to holding a B.A. Hons and Ph.D in Religious Studies. She is currently a professor of Islamic and Religious Studies at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.
It is to her credit that she has these things, but the knowledge of Islam is not restricted to academic credentials, although our so-called Mullahs, Shayhks and Muftis would like everyone to believe otherwise. The knowledge of Islam is a gift given by ALLAH to whomever HE pleases. Our Prophet(sws) was not a literate man. He did not read nor write, yet ALLAH placed within him the knowledge that was necessary to do his work in this world. This gift cannot be purchased with any amount of money. You either get it from ALLAH or you don't. This knowledge cannot be obtained from any University.
No shayhk can give you this knowledge of his/her own volition. He/she must
have the permission from ALLAH to share the smallest of secrets with someone. This knowledge is not restricted to any particular gender either, as has been evidenced by the countless number of women who have reached great heights in knowledge and spirituality within our Deen.
In today's world we have so many men with impressive credentials and titles in high places, but they are doing nothing for Islam. Shayhk Tantawi of Al-Azhar in Cairo is the number one example of this. Is he using his credentials to speak against the Human Rights abuses against Muslims in Egypt? Is he using his power to write a fatwa outlawing the hundreds of honor killings that take place in Egypt? Far from it he is looking to endorse divorce laws that rob women of their rights in Islam and claiming that there is "nothing unIslamic" in those laws. The same thing can be said of any other high profile Mullah, Shayhk or Mufti. So you see credentials are meaningless unless they are used correctly. In today's world men with titles and impressive credentials stand in front of the ummah and spread lies and mistruths about Islam and nobody says they are wrong. The men put their tongues where they sit and just let them speak these lies and mistruths, but if a woman opens her mouth to say what is true they all jump on her and start picking apart her credentials in order to subdue her and silence her!
ASTAGHFIRULLAH! Credentials bear no value whatsoever. They are just a way for men to discriminate and demean one another (and women) in their quest to satisfy their nafs of power and conquest. Gentlemen, this strategy of yours has become tiresome to women. ALLAH has heard the cries of HIS female creation and HE has empowered many women who will serve to show you the error of your ways.
Prophets and paupers alike, ALL men have come from the same place in a woman's body. You all owe your very existence to the woman who bore you for nine months and watched you grow to maturity- so get off the high horse and give up the condescension of women and start to give women the respect they deserve in every area of life.
What Dr. Riffat Hassan is doing is a tremendous work. She is speaking out about the injustices done to women in the name of Islam and taking active political steps to stop the barbaric "honor killings" of our Muslimahs at the hands of ignorant egotistical savage men who claim to be Muslims. I wholeheartedly support her work and pray that ALLAH will reward her greatly
in this world and the Hereafter for her courageous work. By herself she is making a world of difference for our women.
A woman with knowledge is not liked by men, but a woman with great knowledge of Islam is both envied and feared.
Like or not like it, women are rising to high positions in Islam. It is a reality that is in motion and nobody will be able to stop it because it is ALLAH who is bringing women to the forefront. There will be more of us so get used to it.
In answering your question regarding "normative Islam" I point you to look in the mirror and listen to yourself and you will see the classic example of "normative Islam" Go do the homework instead of questioning and writing condescending nonsense about a woman who is more knowledgeable than yourself.
I suggest that you attend her lectures so that you will learn something and come to feel shame within yourself for being a man in the loosest of terms.
from the servant of ALLAH,
Shayhka Maulani Aeisha Muhammed al-Khayr
From: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Date: Saturday, April 01, 2000 1:22 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: a female theologian's different viewpoint
MSA-EC - http://sunnah.org
.....with regards to the mail sent by the 'maulani' regarding this event, I >was wondering, what are Dr Riffat Hassan's credentials to interpret the Book of Allah. I mean, where has she had any type of ijazah to perform a tafsir or exegisis on the Qur'an. And also, what exactly is 'normative' Islam ??
From: Munira Shamim <[email protected]>
Riffat Hassan interprets the QURAN ...and explains the position and rights of women according to normative Islam. Hear Dr Riffat Hassan speak on her efforts as a woman to interpret the Quran, explain the causes of domestic violence in Pakistan, and discuss her work for women's empowerment.
when? Wednesday, March 29, 2000
where? Lerner C555, located on 115th Street and Broadway
time? 8:00 pm
Dr Riffat Hassan is Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Popularly known as the feminist theologian, she is working hard to interpret the Quran from a non-partisan angle. Dr Hassan also works avidly for the rights of Pakistani women who are victims of domestic violence. She is the founder of INRFVVP (International Network for the rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan).
Dr Hassan has been engaged for 25 years in research in the position and rights of women according to normative Islam. She has been a major spokesperson for Muslim Women's empowerment at the UN Conference on Population and Development at Cairo (1994) and the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing (1995).
This event is organized by the Muslim Students' Association of Columbia University and co-sponsored by:Amnesty International, The Bahai' Club, Barnard's Women's Center,Columbia Law Women's Association, Turath (Columbia' North African and Middle-Eastern Club), Hindu Students' Organization, Society for Immigrant and Refugees, Crescent Society (MSA at the Health Science Campus) and Organization of Pakistani Students Thank you to Professors Philip Oldenburg (Southern Asian Institute) and Frances Pritchett (Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures) for their support in advertising the event.
Professor Dr. Riffat Hassan,
P.O. Box 17202,
Phone: 502 637 4090
Fax: 502 637 4002
P.O. Box 17202,
Louisville, Kentucky 40217, U.S.A.