Mernissi


Mernissi makes the claim that "Any man who believes that a Muslim
woman who fights for her dignity and right to citizenship excludes
herself necessarily from the umma...is a man who misunderstands
his own religious heritage, his own cultural identity" (Mernissi
viii). She goes about supporting this claim by delving into the
very detailed documentation of Islam history. She attributes
misogyny in the past and present Muslim culture to the male
elite. She gives many examples of how Muhammad and Islam have
only supported equality of the sexes and also how the male elite
used false hadiths and very narrow interpretations of the Koran
and true hadiths for their purpose.

She begins by describing how the male elite started running things
right from the onset of Muhammad's death. When a successor to
Muhammad was picked, it did not involve the people of the
community at all or any women. It was done by a small group of
followers which were very close to the prophet, a sort of elite
group. This sort of leadership in Islam continued in the same
manner as only the elite were involved. This helped preserve what
they thought was essential and according to the interests of the
participants the essentials varied.

The fabrication of false hadiths by the male elite was probably
the first and most popular way for them to protect their
interests. The people governing knew how important it was to
"seek legitimacy in and through the sacred text" (Mernissi 43).
Mernissi talks about al-Bukhari, who methodically and
systematically collected and verified true Hadiths. He was exiled
from his native town because he refused to bring the knowledge of
the Hadith to the governor of the town and have it corrupted. He
knew that the invitation from the governor was made only for him
to probably fabricate some Hadith which would benefit the
politicians. Many did not follow al-Bukhari's example but allowed
themselves to be bought for a price and fabricated Hadiths for the
politicians. Even Companions of the Prophet fabricated Hadiths in
order to promote their own personal views.

In the case of the Hadith which states, "Those who entrust their
affairs to a woman will never know prosperity", Mernissi argues
that this Hadith was never uttered by the Prophet and probably
made up for personal reasons of Abu Bakra, who claimed to have
heard the Hadith spoken by the Prophet. First, she finds out from
research that he must have had an excellent memory because he
recalled the Hadith about twenty-five years after the Prophet
supposedly uttered it. At the same time "the caliph `Ali retook
Basra after having defeated `A'isha at the Battle of the Camel"
(Mernissi 50). This leads Mernissi to wonder if Abu Bakra made up
the Hadith to give reason for not supporting `A'isha in the
fitna. Mernissi also attacks the morals of Abu Bakra and finds
out that he had been found to give false testimony in a case to
the caliph `Umar. So with the improbable case of extraordinary
memory and lying in other areas of his life, Mernissi gives reason
to reject Abu Bakra as a reliable source of Hadith.

Mernissi discounts another Hadith made by Abu Hurayra, "The
Prophet said that the dog, the ass, and woman interrupt prayer if
they pass in front of the believer, interposing themselves between
him and quibla." (Mernissi 64) First, Mernissi finds that when
`A'isha heard of this Hadith, she rebuked it by saying that she
had seen the Prophet saying his prayers while she was lying on the
bed between him and quibla (Mernissi 70). History also gives Abu
Hurayra a very anti-feminine personality. He had a nickname given
to him by the Prophet which he disliked because of the trace of
femininity in it. This lead him to say "..the male is better than
the female" (Mernissi 71). He is also an object of distrust
because even al-Bukhari stated that "people said that Abu Hurayra
recounts too many Hadith" (Mernissi 79). He even confessed and
retracted his words completely about a Hadith concerning sex and
fasting. Mernissi again uses `A'isha's refutings and the tainted
personality
of the individual claiming the Hadith to reject it. I agree and
like the way Mernissi goes about the finding wrong the Hadiths
that put women down. It is pretty hard to argue with her method
and its validity. She finds the background to the person, time,
and events that the Hadith came from and sheds new light on it.
Also by exposing to the public `A'isha's responses to the Hadiths
helps her drive her point home. No wonder `A'isha is hidden in
history by the male elite. `A'isha was closer to the Prophet and
knew him