Progressive(ly) Dishonest: The Lies Of Progressive Muslamic Academia

“Islam and Women” (and each attainable tangent that has the potential to fall inside this class) is an eternally scorching matter, commonly pontificated about by conventional Islamic academics, the common Muslim layperson, and a particular breed of parents that make up progressive Muslim academia. How every group handles the topic, and their influence on wider Muslim discourses, is price a thesis in its personal proper; this essay will focus particularly on progressive Muslim academia and the unlucky pattern of mental dishonesty that they repeatedly make the most of with the intention to additional their very own agenda. In specific, we are going to study an excerpt from Aisha Geissinger’s paper “Female Figures, Marginality, and Qurʾanic Exegesis in Ibn al-Jawzī’s Sifat al-Safwa,” and the blatantly twisted interpretation of an anecdote that includes the famed Tabi’iyyah scholar Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) as a case research.

Geissinger claims to delve into the difficulty of girls’s tafseer of the Qur’an (or lack thereof) by highlighting 4 anecdotes talked about inside the classical scholar Ibn al-Jawzi’s guide “Sifat al-Safwa.” The second incident that she relays is about Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), and an interplay that she had with a number of male college students; she then goes on to produce her commentary, as follows:

“Āṣim al-Aḥwal stated: We used to go to Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn. She had placed on her over-garment [jilbāb] like this, and veiled her face with it.

So we stated to her: “May God have mercy on you! God has said, ‘No blame will be attached to older women who are not hoping for marriage, if they take off their garments, without flaunting their charms …’ [Q. 24:60] – meaning, the jilbāb.”

He [ʿĀṣim] stated: Then she replied, “Is there anything after that?” We answered, “‘… but it is preferable for them not to do this.’” And she responded, “This is the evidence for [wearing] the jilbāb.”54

Here, we now have the recounting of an incident between Asim ibn Ahwal (the narrator), his unnamed male companions, and the scholar Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). Before delving into Geissinger’s interpretation of your complete state of affairs, readers ought to pay attention to the next info concerning Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). Hafsah bint Sireen was a major scholar of the Tabi’een; her father was a freed slave of the good Companion Anas ibn Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), and thus Hafsah’s household was blessed to have a mawla-relationship with him. Hafsah and her brother Muhammad grew to become recognized for his or her data, with Hafsah herself being extremely regarded for her data of the Qur’an and ahadith. Many different students and college students of information would go to along with her, searching for data and the knowledge she needed to impart. 

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Iyaas ibn Mu’awiyyah stated: 

“I did not meet anyone whom I can prefer over Hafsah.” He was requested: “What about Hasan al Basri and Muhammad ibn Sireen?” He stated: “As for me I do not prefer anyone over her. She learnt the Qur’an by heart when she was twelve years old.” [Al Mizzi, Tahdheeb al-Kamaal, xxxv. 152]

Hishaam ibn Hassaan stated:

“I saw Al-Hasan (Hasan al Basri) and (Muhammad) ibn Sireen, and I did not see anyone that I thought was cleverer than Hafsah.” [Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah, Vol 2, Page 709]

Hishaam narrates that when Ibn Sireen (her brother) would discover one thing troublesome and ambiguous (ashkala ‘alayhi) regarding the Qiraa’ah (recitation), he would say, “Go and ask Hafsah how to recite.” (Sifah As-Safwah, Dhikr Al Mustafiyaat min A’abidaat al Basrah.)

All of that is mandatory to remember as one reads Geissinger’s interpretation of your complete state of affairs. She says:

This anecdote (hereafter “the Ḥafṣah’s veil anecdote”) attributed to ʿĀṣim al-Aḥwal (d. ca. 141/758), a freedman and ḥadīth transmitter,55 presents a gaggle of pious males in Basra who have been within the behavior of coming to see Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn, maybe with the intention to hear aḥādīth or inspiring phrases.56 

This anecdote locations their perceptions on the forefront quite than hers. Through ʿĀṣim’s voice and accompanying gesture (“She had put on her over-garment like this”), the reader/viewers is proven Ḥafṣah as these males see her – an older girl sporting a jilbāb that she has wrapped in such a manner that her face is roofed. The males disapprove, and confidently right her by quoting a part of Q. 24:60. By so doing, they suggest that there is no such thing as a motive for her to put on a jilbāb at her age, a lot much less veil her face. Given her household’s slave previous,57 the suggestion isn’t solely that she is being unnecessarily stringent, however as properly that she is giving herself airs as she even exceeds what’s required of elite freeborn older ladies.58”

Thus far, the reader/viewers has been primed to understand Ḥafṣah solely by the boys’s eyes, to unreflectively undertake the boys’s gaze and its presumed non secular authority as their very own. But when she responds by posing a query that not directly factors to their failure to cite your complete verse, the reader/viewers begins to suspect that Ḥafṣah is aware of greater than they’d assumed. The males reply by reciting its concluding portion, on this manner not directly conceding that their understanding of this verse is partial at finest. Finally, Ḥafṣah is granted the final phrase, and with it she turns the tables on them (in addition to on the reader/viewers), asserting that its concluding phrases vindicate her sartorial selection.

It is fascinating, in a twisted kind of manner, simply how Geissinger has chosen to set the stage for readers. She frames the scenario as one the place the boys someway have the higher hand, and that they “disapprove” of how she is masking herself in entrance of them. Additionally, she insinuates that this has one thing to do with Hafsah’s standing as coming from a household of freed slaves – and that these males look down upon her for it, and (in reference to some educational debates concerning hijab vis-a-vis slave ladies and free ladies) that they really feel that she doesn’t have the suitable to be observing jilbab in such a manner.

Consider, as a substitute, the next framework, which is a much more correct depiction of the story: the interplay between Hafsah and the boys who came around her was reflective of scholars visiting their older instructor, as was (and is) widespread amongst students and college students of information. Clearly, they visited her typically and had an excellent relationship along with her; one might even enterprise to characterize their relationship as her being maternal or grandmotherly with these youthful males. It is exactly as a result of they’d a optimistic and comfy relationship with Hafsah that they felt assured sufficient to inform her that she didn’t should cowl herself in entrance of them; undoubtedly, within the warmth of Basra, they acknowledged that she was probably uncomfortable to be masking herself with an extra layer, and masking her face as properly in entrance of them. Rather than trying down on her, or presuming that they knew higher than her, they spoke from a spot of consideration; they wished her to really feel comfy and relaxed. By quoting the ayah in regards to the rukhsa (exception) concerning jilbab for older ladies, they demonstrated their stage of consolation along with her and their fondness for her. Hafsah’s familial background performs no function in any way, besides to emphasise her scholarly lineage as a scholar and mawla of Anas ibn Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him); this connection raises her within the sight of different students and her college students, quite than being a damaging issue.

Hafsah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) in flip, reminded her youthful college students of the remainder of the ayah, emphasizing that regardless of realizing in regards to the exception afforded to her, she selected to pursue the extra pious motion: that’s, to keep up her jilbab round them. As properly, this was proof of how she, a feminine scholar, understood the aayaat of hijab and selected to implement it, versus the fixed claims that solely male students weighed in on hijab and its rulings. This additionally demonstrates Hafsah’s personal standing as a scholar, and the way she selected to teach her college students on this second. She not solely displayed her personal data of the fiqhi rulings of hijab and jilbab, but additionally highlighted the facet of ihsaan (excellence) on the subject of how a Muslim ought to conduct themselves. Even when given a legally mandated exception, Hafsah selected to proceed observing jilbab along with her male college students as a result of Qur’an’s conclusion that to take action is spiritually higher (for the older ladies being addressed by the aayah). 

Though Geissinger claims that “the reader/audience has been primed to perceive Ḥafṣa solely through the men’s eyes, to unreflectively adopt the men’s gaze and its presumed religious authority as their own…” the reality is that she alone is the one priming the reader / viewers to view the story from such a perspective. Nowhere in Asim al-Ahwal’s phrases can one discover the presumption of spiritual authority from the boys; certainly, the very context of the anecdote proves the precise reverse: that on this scenario, Hafsah bint Sireen raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is the elder scholar, the one with whom presumed non secular authority lies. The males are her youthful college students, coming to take a seat at her toes and study from her. When Geissinger goes on to say “when she responds by posing a question that indirectly points to their failure to quote the entire verse, the reader/audience begins to suspect that Ḥafṣah knows more than they had assumed,” she betrays her personal – and the presumed viewers’s – ignorance: the idea that Hafsah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) isn’t as religiously educated, or superior to, the boys visiting her. Rather, anybody with an inkling of Hafsah’s standing and deserves as a scholar would instantly know and assume that on this story, her data will change into much more evident. Geissinger concludes by saying

Finally, Ḥafṣa is granted the last word, and with it she turns the tables on them (as well as on the reader/audience), asserting that its concluding words vindicate her sartorial choice.”

Again, the framing right here is unusual – Hafsah isn’t ‘granted’ the final phrase; quite, she powerfully demonstrates her data and gives an impactful instructing second to her college students. Unfortunately, Geissinger additionally simplifies and dismisses your complete challenge at hand as that of a “sartorial choice,” when it’s something however a mere query of dressing. Instead, Hafsah’s choice to look at jilbab in entrance of her college students is one which displays a way of upper religious conduct, out of the honest and ardent want to please her Creator. 

From starting to finish, the story of Hafsah bint Sireen’s jilbab is reflective of the highly effective historical past of feminine Islamic scholarship, of the authorized rulings and religious classes derived from this instructing second, and of an instance of the classical custom of interaction between Islamic students and their college students. Geissinger’s option to dishonestly symbolize and body the characters and the occasions that happened is each unethical and unsurprising. Indeed, it’s to be anticipated from the progressivists who make up the majority of Muslamic academia, who’ve a protracted monitor report of twisting classical texts and historic context to make up a model of Islam and Islamic scholarship that fits their very own specific world views. 

While this essay has checked out just one excerpt from a single paper, it’s a obvious instance of the mental dishonesty at play not simply in Geissinger’s work, however within the overwhelming majority of literature penned by progressive Muslamic teachers. For the common Muslim – and the more-than-averagely-educated Muslim – who might discover themselves delving into many well-liked books on Islam and gender written by well-known progressive teachers, it’s essential to learn the literature with a crucial lens. It is all too straightforward to fall for the literary sleights of hand and twisted takes of our Islamic historical past, main us to erroneously consider within the different info of progressive Muslamic academia. 

What is deeply unlucky is that whereas the assorted topics of dialogue concerning Islam and girls are completely price analyzing in higher element, progressivists do us a disfavour in the best way they select to method the subject. Rather than adhering to requirements of educational honesty, and thus benefiting the broader Muslim discourses, they’ve chosen to undermine the very foundations of our exemplary historical past of Islamic scholarship. In order for us to genuinely tackle the legitimate questions and points that exist inside our communities, we should start with a basis of sincerity in the direction of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and a dedication to searching for the Truth in an trustworthy method, with out projecting our personal biases and agendas insofar as is humanly attainable. 

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