IIS Interview: Islam and Women

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Event Name: IIS Interview: Islam and Women
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/16/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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assalamu alaikum and welcome to american

muslim hour I am Asuma cartoon today we

are speaking with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

about two women in Islam well c'mon say

Yusuf let's start up a little bit about

the history of the Sharia and the role

of women in that in the seventh century

Arabia the Sharia or Islamic law was

established to protect women's rights in

the fields of freedom of belief property

lineage and honor for example if that

was its purpose why today is Islam seen

as oppressive to women I would I would

say first and foremost that the Sharia

is not something that came in the

seventh century the principles upon

which the Shetty is based came in the

seventh century but the the actual

sacred law of Islam is a human endeavor

it took about three hundred years to to

formulate and much of it is based on

humans attempt at understanding

revelation and so you have a always when

you're dealing with religious tradition

you are dealing with human attempts at

understanding God's intent through a

book or a revelation like the Christians

attempting to understand what God

intended for them through the Bible the

Muslims have the same historical

situation in attempting to understand

what God intended for them through the

Quran so the the actual laws that were

given to the prophets a lot if so then

in the seventh century are the there are

not that many and a lot of Muslims are

unaware of that the majority of the the

legal verses in the Quran of which there

are only about 500 out of six six

thousand over six thousand six hundred

verses in the Quran only about

500 deal with legal situations and most

of them deal with it in a way that

enables situational law in other words

that in different situations different

laws are applied so those aims and

purposes behind law so you have an

example of in in Islamic law if somebody

steals then their hand is is cut off now

people think that that sounds barbaric

but the reality of it is is that law

only applies with certain types of theft

it doesn't apply for theft that occurred

because things were left out it's

somebody breaking what we would call in

this culture of breaking and entering

and stealing from a protected area and

then it's only under certain situations

so all mah live in a hut Bob who's the

second caliph of Islam he suspended that

law during a drought and a famine period

because he said people were forced to

steal in order to feed their families

and therefore the aim and purpose of the

law was no longer being served in

applying the law so Islamic law is not

some kind of simpletons law of how to

run a society in the seventh century and

try to apply that in the 21st century

it's it's it's a very complex and

sophisticated legal system and it's

based on rigorous principles that were

laid down in the Quran and there are

certain legal issues that deal with

women with women's rights and for at the

time they were considered extremely

radical now in this quote/unquote

enlightened period of time the

Christians didn't give property rights

to their women until the 19th century

and and that's a historical fact in


women were constantly deprived of

property and wealth because even second

or third born sons because in the

English legal system in the 19th century

it was the firstborn who inherited all

the property of the and from this long

point of view that's unjust so in Islam

1,400 years ago women were given

inheritance laws and people say well

what about a woman who only inherits

half because the Quran says that a male

gets twice as much as a female that was

specifically in one instant there are

other inheritance instants where women

inherit and men male relatives don't or

women actually get more than the men but

in one specific instance which is when

there's a son and a daughter that that

would be a case where the son took twice

as much as as the the daughter and the

reason for that the wisdom behind it is

that a woman's wealth in Islam is

discretionary she her well she can use

it in whatever way she wants whereas a

man's wealth is there its those

responsibilities related to he has to

support his parents if they're old and

unable to support themselves he has to

support any female relatives that don't

have male support he has

responsibilities and that was always

understood by the scholars of Islam they

never saw it as the men are twice as

good as women or deserve twice as many

saw it as a burden that it was actually

a burden so I think part of the problem

is that because there's so much

ignorance not just amongst the Muslims

or certainly amongst Anonymous's but the

Muslims themselves are ignorant about

Islamic law where in history do you

suppose that the laws of the Sharia were

abrogated in order to convince Muslim

women that Islam was oppressive to them

and this abuse of Islam then encouraged

in favor of men I first I would say that

I don't think anywhere has to have the

laws of Islam been abrogated I would

rephrase that by saying that there there

are certainly very early

the laws of Islam are no longer being

applied in terms of women I don't think

women have ever been convinced that

Islam is repressive for them but I think

that they have in in many Muslim

countries the way that Islam has

expressed culturally itself is not

dissimilar to the way that Christianity

was expressed in the West for many


basically patriarchal with an idea of a

certain hierarchy and a position of

women in society and I think what's

difficult for people in the West to

realize is that this quote/unquote

women's liberation is a very recent

phenomenon and so when when they look at

the Muslim world they're looking at a

world that is not dissimilar to their

own world not that long ago that these

traditions are still maintained and

their human traditions whether Islam

agrees with that or not is is a matter

of of looking into what Islam says about

the specific situation

why are you suppose that that happens

well I think that by the nature of

relationships power is an element in any

human relationship if you work in a

corporation you are in a power

relationship with the people you work

with your boss has certain power over

you one of the things that drives people

crazy in corporations is watching people

kiss up to the boss why do they do that

why do they treat the boss with respect

and they don't treat their fellow

coworkers with that same respect because

there's a power relationship involved

here and I think that marriage it's very

easy to slip into power relationships

that are dysfunctional that are

pathological then they're not healthy

that you're human beings and and we do

have certain elements in our

personalities in our nature you're

dealing with biology males are a more

aggressive branch of the human family

and this is biological testosterone is a

hormone that if given to women women

become more aggressive and this is

something that has been confirmed

Western medicine so I think that that

males by their nature have aggressive

tendency if they're not tempered by good

upbringing by their mothers by

humanization and by an understanding of

the awesome tasks and responsibilities

of being in a human relationship whether

it be family in terms of a son towards

the parents the parents towards the

children or our husband towards the wife

how do you think women internalize that

how do you think that Muslim women will

manifest that in their roles today well

I think women all over not just I listen

women are women yes that happened to

have that adjective that they're that

they belong to a faith but first and

foremost they're human beings and so I

think that you'll find throughout the

planet you will find very similar

pathologies manifested by human beings

and certainly America is filled with

very dysfunctional relationships women

here are grossly abused the the number

one cause of murder amongst women in the

United States is from their husbands or

their boyfriends that I mean you see

this so I don't think you can say

Muslims have any monopoly on the

mistreatment of women I think globally

we have a problem the the problem in

Islam occurs when Muslims do not adhere

to the traditions of Islam to the

teachings of Islam and and and and vice

versa when they do it here you will see

in fact extraordinary harmony occur in

the human relationships because very

clear guidelines have been given in

terms of gender relationships so you're

saying that Muslims have themselves to

blame no way that first and foremost yes

absolutely I mean I think that what

happens because human beings it by

nature we have certain flaws in our in

our thinking and that's why logic was

traditionally taught as a

actual science in order to to redress

flaws one of the flaws of people is

cause and effect people will often

mistake because they see certain effects

they'll mistake the cause it's it's

difficult to determine real cause now

what will happen if you if you look at

the muslim world as a non-muslim when

they look at the muslim world and they

see the the dysfunctional nature of

muslim societies they assumed the cause

is islam there's for a muslim looking at

the muslim world and understanding his

religion he knows in fact the cause is

the abandonment of islam it's the fact

that these people are no longer

practicing islam and and so that's

that's the important thing is to

understand that you know the arabs have

a beautiful principle in the science of

ban which is one of the sciences of of

language they say a local auto shaitan

fell onto solidity but before we can

judge a thing we have to understand it

in all of its variables and we're filled

with a world of prejudice people are

constantly prejudging the average

american will make remarks about islam

they'll think that they're liberal

humanistic unbiased unprejudiced and yet

you ask them what they think of islam

that's a stupid religion it's a backward

religion it's oppressive to women have

you ever read the Quran no have you ever

read a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad

no so what are they basing that on

they're basing it on just observing with

some societies well if we observe

Christian societies have we seen turn

the other cheek applied in the West in

the last two thousand years those turn

the other cheek applied in your rock

right the the biblical foundation of the

Torah according to Rabbi Hillel who's

one of the greatest Jewish rabbis is

that the entire message of the Torah

which is the Jewish book is love God and

love thy neighbor as thyself

you see the Jews practicing that towards

their Palestinian neighbors does that

mean that the Torah is invalid as a book

because of what the Jews are doing does

that mean that the gospel is invalid as

a book because of what the Christians

are doing but unfortunately people apply

logic outside of themselves that they

like and then they refuse to apply it on

their own cells it's a little bit about

your analogy of mercy and justice you

discussed that you see mercy

characteristic to women and justice more

characteristic or symbolic of men can

you expand on that what I think if you

look in the world you will find that

this is one of the paradoxes of the

world of the dilemmas of the world is on

the one hand we honor virtue as a

religious virtue and on the other hand

we honor justice as a moral virtue if we

look at mercy as a religious virtue it's

very difficult for us to have justice

when we bring mercy into as some say

like Shakespeare that that that that

mercy must temper justice in other words

be just that have that mercy temper the

justice to prevent it from becoming harm

or becoming a harshness in the Christian

world mercy is at the root of the of the

Christian message

this idea of mercy I think in Islam the

the the woman is the embodiment of mercy

the word in Arabic for mercy LACMA is is

derived from the word for womb and so

the understanding of the Muslims have

always been that the source of Mercy in

the world is the womb it is the womb

it's the blood bonds that that that bond

us as a dynamic people that we're from

many Adam we're children of Adam and

therefore we should have compassion for

all human beings irrespective of race

their Creed their color and at the same


we need to have justice in the world in

order for their four things to work in

the marketplace so my cosmological

understanding in Islam is that a woman

represents symbolically the the the

virtue of justice in the world and the

man represents of mercy and the man

represents justice and these are the two

hands that God has given human beings

the left on the right hand and and and

they're to work together this is this is

how things are done in the world so the

relationship between men and women is a

relationship that's complementary it's

not an equal relationship and I think

this is where people have a real problem

because equality is a mathematical

concept you don't find equality in the

world you'll find equality in

mathematics as far as worshiping Allah

equality is the same in his eyes as far

as I know there's no equality in worship

and I'll give you an example two people

pray one of them is sincere in his prose

and the other is not but outwardly they

looked exactly the same they're not

equal Iran for instance says are they

equal those who know and those who don't

know they're not equal we're not living

in a world of equality and I think this

is one of the modern misconceptions of

the world this lie to try to create this

so-called egalitarian society there has

never on this planet been an egalitarian

society human beings are not equal

they're not equal in talent and gifts

the only place where they are equal is

before the law that is the only place if

if a rich man and a poor man come before

a judge that judge has to treat them the

same before the law if a male or a

female comes before a judge that man

must treat them equal before the law in

terms of actual real experience in the

world you cannot find equality it's a

myth that in terms of seeking Allah's

reward between a man and

that they have the same potential

potential yes

absolutely that in fact really it's

unfair because women have an easier now

to gain God's grace according to the

Islamic tradition how so well for

instance according to the Prophet

Muhammad a woman came to him and

complained she said we see men go out

and struggle in the way of God defending

the lands of Islam we see them they have

more money than we do and they give

charity and we see them that they go to

the congregational mosque five times a

day and we have children that keep us in

our houses they're getting all the

reward and the Prophet Muhammad peace be

upon him said any woman who fulfills her

trust to God and her responsibility in

her household has the same reward as

that man out there who's doing jihad

who's paying his charity who's going to

the mosque in other words and I think

with the way my wife said that when she

told me she said that's not equal she

said it's that the Prophet understood

how difficult it is to be a woman in

this world because even though we feel

that the women may feel that they are

furthering their purposes at home and

they feel they have another purpose of

doing good for the Ummah in in in terms

of being out in the public eye for those

reasons the greatest good that a mother

can do for not just the Ummah of Islam

but for Humanity is to raise a human

being that is the greatest thing that

she can do and if she thinks she can do

anything greater she's deluded she is

deluded now not every woman is a mother

and there's certainly many many things

that women can do but if a