Social Scientist. v 15, no. 165 (Feb 1987) p. 62.

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Women in Islamic Ideology

THE UNPRECEDENTED attention drawn by the Shah Bano case can be seen a^a manifestation of demands following from the problems faced by women in contemporary society. The discussion of the religious issues involved suggests that religion need no more be treated as the language of theologians alone. Rather, the matter now has reached the people, involving them in an authentic dialogue, based on facts drawn directly from life. Asghar Ali Engineer, in his new Urdu title Quran Mem Aurat Ka Qarja1 sets himself the goal of elucidating and analysing this dialectical interaction between empirical fact and religious revelation. The author begins with the formulation of a theoretical system that can liberate the believer from religio-legal bonds. The wisdom of the Quran lay in its dynamism, that took into account the challenges of genuine temporal requirements and sought to ensure justice and a better life. This cannot be reconciled with the rationale of taqJid (ie., rigid following) advocated by the custodians of religion, which, according to Engineer amounts to breaking away from the Divine Spirit. The author argues that faith (imam) is neither a form of refuge nor subjugation to divine authority ; rather it .is an ideology internalised in a manner that accommodates the evolution of norms in society. Hence, to do away with the routinised stateness of the Quranic system, it is necessary to give a fresh perspective to verses that carry the stamp of their own time and space.

Based on this approach, the author calls for an identification of the human situation in its totality, before reflecting on the Quran. Otherwise, we are warned, modern man will be dismayed, rather than benefited, by the wisdom of his religion. Engineer's entry into the subject of the Shariat begins with these premises. He then refers to the different phases in the development of Islamic jurisprudence since Mohamed Al-Khizri, emphasising those social and personal prejudices introduced in the couise of history. The latter were the dominant ideas of paiticular periods, and were therefore oriented towards supporting the dominant interests in society in the periods concerned. Not surprisingly, given the inevitable differences in human situations and therefore opinion, there were, according to Engineer, at one point of time, a hundred schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

It is with this background that the author approaches the question

*Works with the Society for Social and Economic Studies, New Pelbi.

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