The Myth of Unbiased Islamic Scholarship | Part 4

There is the example of discussion on how often a husband is obliged to be sexually intimate with his wife; while it is unanimous that a husband who desires intimacy must be responded to immediately by his wife, the reverse is not held as automatically true by the vast majority of scholars.

Instead, as Imam al-Ghazâli says in his chapter on marriage,

“The husband should go to his wife once every four nights. This is fairest, because the [maximum permissible] number of wives is four. One is therefore allowed to extend the interval up to this limit. It is best that the husband should increase or decrease the amount of intercourse in accordance with his wife’s need to guard her virtue, since the preservation of her virtue is a duty of the husband. If the woman’s claim on intercourse has not been fixed [in fiqh], this is because of the difficulty of making and satisfying such a claim. ” While at first glance this statement is commendable, one should note that the language is quite different in comparison to the discussion of a husband’s right to intimacy. A husband “should” go to his wife “[at least] once every four nights…” There is no “he must”; there is no, “when his wife calls to him, he is obligated fulfill her desire immediately.” In fact, a later Hanafi jurist made the bald claim, “After the first time [i.e. consummation of marriage], intercourse is his right, not her right.” As well, it has been a common view of various scholars to say that a man is held liable, blameworthy, or accountable to the law [only] if he withholds sexual intimacy from his wife for longer than four months; the obligation is that he provide it at least “once in every third of the year.”

The Myth of Unbiased Islamic Scholarship | Part 3

“One example of how female reality can oppose male (scholarly) perception is in an anecdote regarding the great scholar, Al-Shaykhah Al-Muftiyyah Fâṭimah bint ¢Abbâs Al-Baghdâdiyyah. She used to debate with the ¢ulamâ’ of her time, the majority of whom were men. One such debate was with Shaykh Sadr Al-Dîn ibn Al-Wakîl, on the topic of ḥayḍ (menstruation). She won the debate, and she said to him, “You know about this only from the knowledge (of the books), but I know it from that knowledge and also in practice!”

In this anecdote there is a rare – but extremely relevant – example of how Islamic scholarship is incomplete –and potentially inaccurate– without the active involvement of female scholars themselves. Without women to speak of their own lived realities, how can one come to truly judicious rulings regarding those matters which affect their lives on an almost daily basis – whether this is with regards to menstruation or with their sex lives?”

The Myth of Unbiased Islamic Scholarship | Part 2

“The evidence for that statement is (unfortunately) overwhelming. From relatively early on in the history of Islamic scholarship until today, statements and rulings were made that described women as being inherently inferior and thus denied basic rights. Women were prevented even from learning to read or write out of a ‘fear of corruption’; even today, excuses are made to deny women Shar¢i rights such as khul¢ out of a belief that they will ‘abuse’ this right and somehow destroy society itself.”

The Myth of Unbiased Islamic Scholarship | Part 1

“Of the female scholars in later Islamic eras, a common factor is that the men in their lives (fathers, brothers, husbands) did go out of their way and inconvenience themselves in order to support and encourage these women. Fâṭimah bint Sa¢d’s father ensured, from the time of her infancy, that she would be taken to circles of knowledge; later on, her husband sponsored her travels to Syria and Egypt. The same was true of Fâṭimah Al-Samarqandiyyah, and Fâṭimah bint ¢Abbâs Al-Baghdâdiyyah, who was a contemporary of Shaykh Al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah.

As for the majority of women, however, they did not have the same opportunities provided to even the poorest and disadvantaged of their male equals. Rather, the chauvinistic attitudes of Jâhiliyya (including but not limited to the influence of the Greek philosophers) –and not the Sunnah of encouraging female contribution– were the norm in the Muslim Ummah for hundreds of years.”