Saturday, March 24, 2007

Woman re-interprets Qur’aan

Woman re-interprets Qur’aan
Mike Ghouse March 24, 2007

Sometimes, our faithfulness to our understanding of anything in life makes us eager to reject any other expression, and prevents us from enlightening ourselves. We assume that seeing a different point of view is being disloyal, it is not. Islam is consistent in advising us to learn, whether from Romans or going as far away as China, we have to learn and we have to be open to learning.

First of all, we welcome this new additional translation of Qur'aan. In the spirit of learning, and learning well, the alternatives available to us will simply open up our up minds to understand the concept of Justness in God's word in every aspect of life.

There was a time when most of the non-Arabic speaking Muslims (>75%) relied on translation in English or other languages, what was given to us, was all we knew. We did not know how close the translations reflected the values of Qur'aan, but that was the only source available to us one time. We also had translations where due to the inadequate comprehension of the audience, certain words were injected into the translations to explain the meaning of the terms. People have taken that literally and some people have been hurt with these unintended wrong translations. (Apology and Qur'aan translations power point presentations at )

Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made the knowledge available to every human through the Qur'aan, he meant for every one to read and understand it. It was common for the Prophet SAW to ask the Sahaba to think a bit before he told them the actual meaning of anything. He sometimes used to initiate a conversation by asking a question "Do you know what xyz means?" It was simply a means of encouraging the Sahaba to think.

Thanks to the variations in translations, it shows us the limitations of human understanding, and challenges us to strive to grasp the whole truth. What was hitherto cut and dry is no more. May be it is Allah's hint to us to get closer to understanding the truth. The monopolies would be gone and focus would be on the essence rather than literal meaning. Presently the 14 translations are available at and Insha Allah it will be at soon.

Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar offers another meaning to the translation of the Arabic word "Idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which has been mis-understood and abused over the centuries by men who would be abusive any way, whether they are Muslim or not. "Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away' - either one from the other, may be it meant separation as a process of re-evaluation.

Insha Allah, I am working on presenting a paper on the myth of "wife beating" to our scholars and Imams to review, and if it is consistent with the essence of Qur'aan and if they concur, it will be a relief to the Muslim women around the world consistent with God being a just God.

I am optimistic with this particular development and welcome this new translation, even if it has a few flaws, it would wash off by the 15 other translations, but will take us closer to the essence.

Jazak Allah Khair
Mike Ghouse

Woman re-interprets Koran with feminist view

By Manuela Badawy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.

The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.

In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word "idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.

"Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book.

The passage is generally translated: "And as for those women whose ill will you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!"

Instead, Bakhtiar suggests "Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God."

Some Muslims said the new interpretation strayed from the original. Omar Abu-Namous, imam at the New York Islamic Cultural Center Mosque, questioned Bakhtiar's interpretation.

"There is nothing to stop a woman from translating the Holy Koran. The translator should have good command of the Arabic language in order to convey it and translate it into other languages. I don't know if Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has good command of Arabic," Imam Abu-Namous said.

"Maybe she is depending on other translations, not on the original," he said.


Bakhtiar defended her work, telling Reuters she translated from the Arabic text and that she "reads and knows classical Arabic."

The New York imam also said the passage she is challenging speaks of when a woman wants a divorce, and only allows a man to "hit his wife, according to the Prophet, with a 'miswak,'" or a twig of a pencil's length, on her hand.

Arabic Language Professor at the American University in Cairo Siham Serry said her interpretation of the word "idrib," was "to push away," similar but slightly different from Bakhtiar's "to go away."

She said she agrees with the imam that 'miswak' means twig and that the Koran does not encourage the harm of women. But she also said that men can interpret that passage to justify their own behavior.

"How can you hurt someone by hitting her with a very small, short and weak thing?" she asked by telephone from Cairo. "But sometimes the interpretation of the Koran is according to men, and sometimes they try to humiliate the woman."

Bakhtiar writes in the book that she found a lack of internal consistency in previous English translations, and found little attention given to the woman's point of view.

In other changes to the text, she cites the most accurate translation of the word traditionally translated to mean "infidel" as "ungrateful."

And she uses "God" instead of "Allah," saying that God is the universal English term.

Bakhtiar has been schooled in Sufism which includes both the Shia and Sunni points of view. As an adult, she lived nine years in a Shia community in Iran and has lived in a Sunni community in Chicago for the past 15 years.

"While I understand the positions of each group, I do not represent any specific one as I find living in America makes it difficult enough to be a Muslim, much less to choose to follow one sect or another," she writes.

The new text is published by Islamic specialty bookseller Kazi Publications, which has a store in Chicago and online

1 comment:

  1. All along I have not been in agreement with our Imams' in India when they translated the verse to suggest beating, some giving mild tap etc. Every time I argued with them but in vain as they produced the translation word by word to support their argument.

    Lat month I had the privilege to listen to an American converted to Islam, an economist from California who is also a scholar of Arabic. His sermons during Fridays have indeed been a treat and captivating to hear. In one of the sermons the question of wife beating was elucidated by him. Sheik's view was that in case of any conflict between one's life partner, the man must make it a point to talk to wife, counseling her first, unable to see the reason, not have sex with her and finally he stressed a fact if one is to make the lady understand , hitting is illogical and to assume that a solution was possible was a folly . So the word is far from hitting and it is just making her understand.
    Prof Leila Bakthiar's effort is due to the tragedy that has afflicted some muslims to ill treat their spouses and thus giving handle to our detractors to abuse the entire community. She wants to correct that impression and who could fault her?

    Regards, Hamid Shahul.



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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.