What the Koran really says about women
Source: The Telegraph
By Carla Powers, Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Non-Fiction, 2016
When Middle East correspondent Carla Power began studying the Koran with a conservative Islamic scholar, she wasn’t expecting to learn that it nowhere advocates the oppression of women – or that Islam has a rich history of forgotten female leaders
When I was eleven years old, I bought a tiny book containing a verse from the Koran from a stall outside a Cairo mosque. I was neither Muslim nor literate in Arabic; I bought it for its dainty proportions. The stall’s proprietress watched me bemusedly as I cooed over the matchbox-sized object.
I found it over a quarter century later, one sticky summer afternoon in St. Louis, wrapped in a jewellery box in my parents’ house. By then, not only had I inherited my father’s interest in the Islamic world, but my childhood fascination had been seasoned by reporting on Muslim societies as a journalist at Newsweek and then Time magazine.
Yet, until 2012, I’d never done more than dip into the Koran – the source of the faith the jihadists and extremists I was writing about claimed was driving them.
The Koran began as a series of revelations to Muhammad, a caravan trader, in the seventh century. These word grew into a spiritual, social, and political force whose impact is now global.
As the scripture of the planet’s fastest-growing religion— with 1.6 billion followers, Islam is second in popularity only to Christianity— it stands as a moral compass for hundreds of millions. Reading it should be a prerequisite for understanding humanity.
I was surprised to discover that the Koran can refract in dazzling ways. The San Francisco civil rights lawyer may discover freedoms in the same chapter in which a twelfth-century Cairo cleric saw strictures.
The Marxist and the Wall Street banker, the despot and the democrat, the terrorist and the pluralist—each can point to a passage in support of his cause.
“All this talk about jihad, that’s not what the Koran says!”
Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, the Islamic scholar who taught me the Koran, once told me an old Indian joke. A Hindu goes to his Muslim neighbor and asks if he could borrow a copy of the Koran.
“Of course,”said the Muslim. “We’ve got plenty! Let me get you one from my library.”
A week later, the Hindu returns.
“Thanks so much,” he said. “Fascinating. But I wonder, could you give me a copy of the other Koran?”
“Um, you’re holding it,” said the Muslim.
“Yeah, I read this,” replied the Hindu. “But I need a copy of the Koran that’s followed by Muslims.”
“The joke is right,” said Akram. “All this talk about jihad and forming Islamic states, that’s not what the Koran says!”
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