Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Woman Recites Qur'an to Open a Session at ISNA for the First Time

I was recently sent an inquiry by a pious student of knowledge regarding a buzz on the internet hailing the first time a sister had been given the opportunity to recite the Qur'an at an ISNA Convention, this year. I figure that many others have the same question, so I have reproduced the question and answer below I added a few comments to this post that were not included in my letter to the young brother:

RE: Question about listening to a non-mahram's voice

Salaam Shaykh Hamzah,

I hope you are doing well, it was nice to see you this past weekend.

In light of the recent event of the sister reciting Qur'an at ISNA, there's been a lot of discussion going around relating to the permissibility of this. I was wondering if you could explain the Maliki position on this topic? And also if you knew the position that allows for its permissibility? I've had a hard time finding much information online, other than people saying its haram lol.

Jazak Allah Khair!

From: Hamzah Wald Maqbul

RE: Question...

Wa'alaykumussalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
The voice of a woman is haram for a man to listen to if it will be a cause for fitnah for him, except in specific circumstances based on dire need.
Likewise, if a woman knows that her speaking to someone or in front of someone will cause a fitnah she is prohibited from doing so, except in specific circumstances based on similar need.

[Such a fitnah is taken for granted from a young attractive woman.]

The opening recitation of Qur'an for an ISNA session is not such a need, and given that the young lady in question (whom I have met in the past) is almost surely to have caused some impropriety by having recited in front of a mixed gathering, I am not terribly excited about what happened. Often times Muslims in the west behave like they have something to prove to others, and they thereby misplace their priorities and values. I don't believe by her having recited, that the honor of Muslim women increased, and if we feel that by putting women in positions traditionally discharged by men is somehow progress, then we ourselves are admitting two things: one is that women will not be honored until they are encouraged to behave like men, and two, that centuries of intervening Muslims society and scholarship have been mired in a patriarchy that has barred them from being fair to women, until ISNA's enlightened conference organizers elevated them to that status that our `ulama were hitherto unable to accord them.
As for those who would argue that only the most extreme pervert would be put into fitnah by a Qur'anic recitation, I propose that only one who lacks basic fitrah would not be at least charmed by an attractive young lady reciting something as beautiful as the Qur'an. I did not listen to the recording, but assume she recites well. [The fact that a beautiful voice is reciting the Qur'an does not negate the possibility of fitnah, rather it compounds the sin therein, as it causes something that is sacred to be violated rather than something mundane like normal speech.]

Anyone who sat in our tasawwuf class, or classes like it from the past 14 centuries knows that the pathways to the enlightening or destruction of the heart cross through the eyes and ears. To fail to vigilantly guard over those gateways to the heart is to slacken in defending one's deen and will ensure that one is robbed of the maqam of ihsan
I'm not saying that this sister is evil or that whoever listened is surely going to hell. [In fact, I have much respect for her efforts to serve Islam, as do I for the good intentions held by those who wished to benefit from listening to the speeches of various community leaders at the conference.]
I'm just saying that all of the `ulama' I've ever studied with would be mortified by the prospect of young women reciting in a mixed gathering, and that fear is not based on bigoted patriarchy, but on the firm principles established by the sunnah. [Din is nasihah or sincere advice. If we didn't care or have some hope for good, we wouldn't have wasted our breath.]
The fact that this event is being touted as an achievement of something betrays an attitude that until we behave like them, we are backwards, otherwise I am sure that many other people recited Qur'an at other venues this weekend, and if all things were equal, those recitations would be received with acclaim. I am happy with the way of the old mashayikh of dar al-Islam and never felt that they were in need of the philosophies of modernity or western feminism in order to rectify their attitudes which are based on an usuli understanding of the sunnah.
... and Allah knows best.