Ali, Asghar. “Islam, Women, and Gender Justice” in Islam Women and Gender Justice. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2001.Asghar Ali is trained in commentary on Quran, hadith, and Islamic jurisprudence. He has authored over 40 books, including Islam and Its Relevance to Our Age and Rights of Women in Islam, and is known for his work on liberation theology in Islam. A staunch advocate of human rights, justice, and equality, he is the founding Chairman of Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), the purpose of which is to promote human rights and inter-faith understanding in Asia; he is also the director of the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies, which promotes peace through research and studies from human rights perspectives.
In his article “Islam, Women, and Gender Justice,” Ali introduces several arguments of progressive Muslim thought. His main argument is that gender justice will not be possible within Islam so long as Muslims continue accepting the current Sharia laws, which were codified during the second and third centuries after Islam’s arrival, as infallible and divine. Although the ulema (“learned,” scholars) of those centuries who constructed laws for Muslims were learned, he states, they were still humans and thus fallible – and products of their times and societies. Once Muslims begin realizing that the violence and mistreatment of Muslim women is a result of the classical interpretations of Islam and make a move towards re-interpretations, then Muslim women will be able to receive the justice that God Himself has granted them. Ali seems to suggest that if practices like triple divorce, which puts women in a profoundly difficult situation, is going to pose more harms than benefits to women and the rest of society, then it cannot be Islamic and must be re-evaluated. He insists that Quranic verse 4:34, which claims men to be the women’s “qawwamun” (often translated as “above” or “superior” or “maintainer” or “higher”), has undergone great changes in interpretations, evidence that interpretations can not only vary from person to person but may also change with time. He also believes that the burden of representing Islam properly is placed almost entirely on the Muslim woman, since the man enjoys the fruits of the woman’s restrictions.