Let me start off by saying that Asma Barlas is a genius. If her views on Islam were more well known, oh, we would be talking about a revolution!
Coming from outside the faith, as a recent convert to Islam (but nah, we are all born Muslim 😉 ), her book “Believing Women In Islam” hit me in my soul!
So, here are my thoughts on verse 4:1, the opening verse of chapter 4 of the Koran, after having read Asma’s book.
(I had read this verse many times before, but I had never understood just how powerful it was)
Revere Your God
Who created you from a single self
Created, of similar nature,
its mate and from them twain
scattered like seeds
countless men and women,
through Whom ye demand
your mutual rights
And revere the wombs that bore you, for God ever watches over you. (Qur’an 4:1)
As we can see, God created humankind from a single “Self”, and then created of like nature, its mate. It is not specified who came first, and who came second. This is extremely important, because it does not let the man put himself above the woman by claiming that he came first. Another important and beautiful thing to note form this verse, as stated by Asma in the book, is that God extends the concept of “Taqwa” (GodConsciousness/Reverence) to the “wombs that bore you”. These are, in other words, mothers, and mothers are women.
Therefore, how beautiful is it that God calls upon mankind to have “Taqwa” for our mothers, and so essentially, to have “Taqwa” for women? This does not mean that we should put women on the same level as God, since the Islamic concept of divine unity (Tawhid) rejects equating anything with God, but I believe that it means that God is recognising himself as the creator, and the woman as the procreator.
Moving forward, the word womb (rahim) has been derived from the same linguistic root as the word rahma which means mercy and which is God’s intrinsic quality. “My Mercy encompasses all things” (7:156), are the words of the Qur’an. Also, every one of the Qurans Surahs (Chapters) open with “In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful”, and mercy is one of Gods divine attributes. Therefore, the relationship between God and the woman in the Qur’an shows that women should be respected, not only on a human level, but on perhaps the highest spiritual level.
When Malala Yousafzai once said in an interview that she thought that women were more powerful than men because God had given them the power to create life and give birth, (Yea, she said it, without any mercy lol) she was referring to this Quranic concept, even if perhaps she was not aware of it. In any case, this verse alone is enough to, at least from an islamic perspective, liberate women from the chains of oppression worldwide, (if only us men could understand it in it’s deepest sense) and more specifically, a country with very conservative Islamic views and interpretations like Saudi Arabia where women are not even allowed to drive. But again, these kinds of interpretations and reflections are being brought forward by women, in this case, by sister Asma, and that is why it is very important that they have an equal chance in engaging with their sacred texts.
Thank you for reading, and I now leave you with these words : Go and buy the book and help to support one of Islam’s greatest scholars while at the same time learning some beautiful, beautiful things.