Monday, March 21, 2005

Women Friday prayer imamah: Why not?

I decided to put more focus on Hina Azam's excellent analysis of the women Friday prayers imamah.

Apparently, any such debate between uninformed Muslims (me included) does not lead to anywhere. In both cases, the human reasoning uses --as Hina puts it-- a "ends-justify-the-means" approach. I personally have been using all the wrong arguments to try to make my point. I'm trying to put human reasoning behind my arguments, when in fact I might be overlooking many other factors and missing alot of information. And I cannot make such a core issue of Islam liable to some flawed human reasoning that I make. So, when I see someone as informed, well-spoken, and thougtful as Hina Azam make an argument based on real knowledge, I simply shut up and point to what she's saying.

I am going to put some excerpts (I'd hate to paraphrase or summarize this) from her article here to encourage you to go read the whole thing:

"In order to arrive at any new legal doctrine, or hukm, one must employ a systematic methodology by which to extract meaning from the sources."

"The centerpiece of a proper juristic methodology is a sound system of legal reasoning which is consistent with the texts of the Qur'an and the most-likely-authentic Sunna, and which emerges from a spirit of piety and submission to Allah"

"The important point for our purposes is that while jurists might have disagreed about specific rulings, they followed a well-elucidated methodology that was highly rational, that was consistent with the Qur'an and Sunna/hadith, and that appears, from my readings, to have emerged from a very real spirit of humility before God. The classical methodology of discerning the divine intent is truly awe-inspiring, and a formidable challenge to anyone who seeks to arrive at wholly new hukms, in large part because -- as a method — it remains highly persuasive. I do not say that the classical juridical methods were flawless."

"The proposed ruling — that women may lead men in salat al-jumu'ah -- violates several basic texts and classical interpretive principles, and its proponents provide neither a sound critique of the traditional legal methodology or nor an improved one to replace it."

"the laws of Islam have been divided by the scholars into two broad categories, those that have to do with the rights of God, and those that have to do with the rights of human beings."

"Prayer, as one of the 'ibadat (forms of worship) has been considered to be almost purely in the category of rights of God."

"The elements of salat ... were established during the life of the Prophet under divine guidance. We simply do not know the reasons for their form. Furthermore, because salat is so critical to proper practice of Islam, it is not an area that one may tamper with."

"Thus, the scholars operated according to the principle that the rule (asl) in social laws (mu'amalat) is permissibility (ibahah), and the rule in religious observance ('ibadat) is prohibition (tahrim)."

"In general, the arguments that are given in support of the upcoming female-led jumu'ah, in combination with the extent of the modifications being made to traditional laws of salat, reflect an ends-justify-the-means approach. It appears that it has already been decided that it is permissible for women to lead a mixed congregation in jumu'ah. Any textual or rational indicants that these rulings might be invalid are conveniently rejected."

"Furthermore, the claims being made are far more sweeping than the evidence warrants."

"My recommendation is that we study and critique the tradition, and work on developing a legal interpretive methodology that leads to more equitable rulings, yes. But I would also recommend a much greater dose of caution and of humility, in light of the gravity of the task. I would seek to remind us all that our first priority is to seek the good pleasure of Allah, whose guidance for humanity may not always be scrutable."

W'Allahu a3lam.