Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-5rkl9 Total loading time: 0.333 Render date: 2022-12-05T18:18:56.237Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

6 - Contemporary Iranian Interpretations of the Qurʾan and Tradition on Women’s Testimony

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2020

Elisabeth Kendall
Affiliation:
Pembroke College, University of Oxford
Ahmad Khan
Affiliation:
Universitat Hamburg
Get access

Summary

Scholars of religion are well aware of the hermeneutical difficulty posed when a holy text says something that challenges widespread beliefs or values. In this paper I focus on modern Iranian methods of dealing with Q. 2:282. Qurʾan 2:282 states that women's testimony in cases of debt is half that of men’s, which poses a challenge to the notion of gender egalitarianism, and particularly to the notion that women's minds are equal to men's minds. I describe the conservative, the reformist and the neo-traditionalist methods of interpretation, categories which I have adopted from Ziba Mir-Hosseini, who uses the terms ‘traditionalist’, ‘neo-traditionalist’ and ‘modernist’. I have modified the terms she has used, because these terms imply that traditionalists are not modern and that reformists reject all aspects of tradition. Instead, all ʿulamāʾ use some aspects of tradition, and all modify it in some ways to incorporate widespread values, and this is evident in their approaches to gender roles. I ultimately argue that gender egalitarianism is a widespread modern value (not just a ‘Western’ value) in part by showing how notions of egalitarianism influence the interpretations of all ʿulamāʾ, including those who argue against egalitarian interpretations of the Qurʾan.

Reformists and neo-traditionalists embrace elements of gender egalitarianism. Conservatives argue instead for ‘complementarity’, in which men and women have fixed, complementary roles. This is entirely in keeping with pre-modern interpretations, which, though varied in many respects, were unanimously gender hierarchical. However, unlike pre-modern interpreters, modern conservatives clarify that the roles of men and women are equally valuable. In other words, the notion of egalitarianism is evident in conservatives’ justification for the ruling, rather than in its substance. Whereas pre-modern interpreters often justified their interpretations by pointing to women's defects, today such language has been jettisoned. Elements of equality between the sexes are emphasised, even in conservative interpretations where the ruling itself remains hierarchical or unequal. This is a prime example of the way that certain values can come to be a norm that is taken for granted, which in turn influences the interpretation of the Qurʾan.

Type
Chapter
Information
Reclaiming Islamic Tradition
Modern Interpretations of the Classical Heritage
, pp. 160 - 176
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×