‘Hadiths are serious stuff’

This is a piece of really very good news. The author says it hasn’t had much attention in the West – or elsewhere either. So let’s pay attention.

In a bold but little-noticed step toward reforming Islamic tradition, Turkey’s religious authorities recently declared that they will remove these statements [such as “If a husband’s body is covered with pus and his wife licks it clean, she still wouldn’t have paid her dues.” – OB] , and more like them, from the hadiths – the non-Koranic commentary on the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad…Hadiths are serious stuff. More than 90 percent of the sharia (Islamic law) is based on them rather than the Koran, and the most infamous measures of the sharia – the killing of apostates, the seclusion of women, the ban on fine arts, the stoning of adulterers and many other violent punishments for sinful behavior – come from the hadiths and the commentaries built upon them. Eliminating these misogynistic statements from the hadiths is a direct challenge to some of the most controversial aspects of Islamic tradition.

The most controversial and the most life-ruining and misery-producing. What a tremendous step toward the improvement of the lives of millions of people, especially women, it would be if all religious authorities removed such hadiths. Let’s earnestly wish them every success.

The media and intellectuals of Ankara and Istanbul largely welcomed last month’s decision, which the Turkish government supported…Yet, despite the rhetoric about the need to make alliances with progressive Islam in the midst of the fight against terrorism, Turkey’s move toward reform has been widely overlooked in the West, and there has been little acknowledgment of it in other Muslim countries.

I wonder if the BBC has asked the MCB what it thinks about it yet.

“I can’t imagine a prophet who bullies women,” said Hidayet Tuksal, a feminist theologian in Ankara. “The hadiths that portray him so should be abandoned.” Similarly, in proposing to create its new standard collection, the Turkish Diyanet intends to look beyond the chain of transmitters to logic, consistency and common sense. In many ways, this is a revival of an early debate in Islamic jurisprudence between rival camps known as the adherents of the hadiths and the adherents of reason – a debate that ended with the triumph of the former.

Go, adherents of reason. Sayings from the 9th century that can’t be second-guessed in the light of reason are not the kind of thing that ought to triumph.

3 Responses to “‘Hadiths are serious stuff’”