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Interpretation of Hadith for Equality between Women and Men: Reading Tahrir al-Mar'a fi 'Asr al-Risala by 'Abd al-Halim Muhammad Abu Shuqqaa


This thesis is a hermeneutical analysis about reinterpretation of Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) within the context of contemporary struggle of Muslims for equality of women and men. It is concerned with interpretative attempt in which Hadith is perceived positively as the source of teaching for meaningful life and just relation between women and men today. I use Tahrir al-Mar'a fi 'Asr al-Risala of 'Abd al-Halim Abu Shuqqa (1924-1995) to point to some of its enabling moments of reading the Islamic source as practiced by advocates of gender equality within Islam. I apply conversational hermeneutics, grounded in the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer, to analyze Abu Shuqqa's work and to engage with this interpretative project, criticizing two existing approaches to Hadith concerning gender issues: approach of the conservatives which marginalizes women in the production of meaning; and of the progressives that disregards Hadith. The main argument of this study, by reading the Tahrir of Abu Shuqqa, suggests that reinterpretation of Hadith in the light of equality of women and men can retrieve key aspects of the text that have been neglected through tendentious assumption obviously prevalent among the conservative and the progressive Muslims as well. Advocacy of gender justice in Islam, in turn, is possible by rereading the texts of Hadith literatures. In this project of rereading, I propose hermeneutics of reciprocity (qira'a mubadala) through which gender roles is interpreted as reciprocal matters and no longer a set of fixed and immutable rights and duties upon women and men. Within this hermeneutics of reciprocity, I argue that hadtihs-based Islamic teachings on gender issues should be revolved around the maxim that what is good for one sex should be brought for both and what hurts one should be avoided from both.

Key Words: Hermeneutics, Hadith, interpretation, gender, equality, justice, and reciprocity