Studying the Quran from a non-patriarchal perspective enlightened and angered Riffat Hassan. She realized the Quran does not discriminate against women, which she said is a misconception many people have about the Muslim religion.
“I became convinced during this course of my research that the Quran does not discriminate against women,” said Hassan, the founder and president of the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims in Pakistan. In a lecture titled “Gender and Islam,” Hassan spoke in the Grace Allen room of the Library about Islam’s misguided association with discrimination of women in the Middle East.
“Not only does it not discriminate against women, it gives to women a lot of special rights and is very protective of their rights,” Hassan said. “The discrimination comes from society, not from the Islam religion.”
Blame for the modern discrimination of women, Hassan said, can be traced back to the mid-1970s when Islamization began in Pakistan. Laws were created in the name of the Quran in a distorted mirror of interpretation.
One law in the Quran is that a crime is only proven true if there are four witnesses present, male or female. However, part of Islamization, which Hassan defined as the initiation by certain Muslim countries to make other countries “more” Islamic in their eyes, skewed the law of the Quran to allow only men to be credible witnesses of a crime.
“According to the Quran, in hard crimes, the evidence that is required to indict a person for a crime is four persons, not gender specific, but according to the laws under Islamization, it must be four male persons,” said Hassan. “This means that if a woman is raped, her evidence is not admissible, and she cannot testify on her own behalf.”
Hassan said since the 1970s, any law in Muslim countries that has been passed in the name of Islam has never been reversed. She said the reason such unjust laws still discriminate against women is because the societies view men as superior. The cause of this idea, Hassan said, is derived from the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
Hassan said there are three ideological assumptions derived from the Bible that support the idea that men are superior to women. She said God created Eve from Adam’s rib for Adam and Eve got Adam thrown out of Paradise.
“It is not possible for me to over emphasize the negative impact that the rib story has on women, not only in the Christian and Judaic religions, but also in Islam,” Hassan said.
Hassan said the correct strategy for eliminating the inequality of women is to educate people accurately about the Quran and Islam. She also challenged some of the legitimacy of the Hadith, extra Quranic stories about the life of the prophet Muhammad.
“If one believes that God created man and woman equally, which is the pure testimony of the Quran, then if they subsequently become unequal in human society, this cannot be said to be the will of God because God created them equally,” said Hassan. “On the other hand, if God did not create them equal, which is what the majority of the people in the world believe, then if you are trying to make them equal, this has to be seen as a subversion of God’s plan.”