Judging by some of the articles which have appeared in the press, it would seem that a Western woman’s happiness hinges largely upon her access to nightclubs, alcohol and revealing clothes; and the absence of such apparent freedom and luxuries in Islamic societies is seen as an infringement of her basic rights.
And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display [more of] their charms … [24:31]
My interpolation of the word “decently” reflects the interpretation of the phrase illa ma zahara minha by several of the earliest Islamic scholars, and particularly by Al-Qiffal (quoted by Razi), as “that which a human being may openly show in accordance with prevailing custom (al-‘adah al-jariyah)”.
Although the traditional exponents of Islamic Law have for centuries been inclined to restrict the definition of “what may [decently] be apparent” to a woman’s face, hands and feet – and sometimes even less than that – we may safely assume that the meaning of illa ma zahara minha is much wider, and that the deliberate vagueness of this phrase is meant to allow for all the time-bound changes that are necessary for man’s moral and social growth. The pivotal clause in the above injunction is the demand, addressed in identical terms to men as well as to women, to “lower their gaze and be mindful of their chastity”: and this determines the extent of what, at any given time, may legitimately – i.e., in consonance with the Qur’anic principles of social morality – be considered “decent” or “indecent” in a person’s outward appearance.
The noun khimar (of which khumur is the plural) denotes the head-covering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as an ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer’s back; and since, in accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman’s tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts were left bare. Hence, the injunction to cover the bosom by means of a khimar (a term so familiar to the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman’s breasts are not included in the concept of “what may decently be apparent” of her body and should not, therefore, be displayed.
O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters, as well as all [other] believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments [when in public]: this will be more conducive to their being recognized [as decent women] and not annoyed. But [withal,] God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace! [33:59]
The specific, time-bound formulation of the above verse (evident in the reference to the wives and daughters of the Prophet), as well as the deliberate vagueness of the recommendation that women “should draw upon themselves some of their outer garments (min jalabibihinna)” when in public, makes it clear that this verse was not meant to be an injunction (hukm) in the general, timeless sense of this term but, rather, a moral guideline to be observed against the ever-changing background of time and social environment. This finding is reinforced by the concluding reference to God’s forgiveness and grace.
– Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given them more strength than the other, and because they support them by their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in absence what Allah would have them guard. (4:34)
Some women will surely bristle over the above passage and the implication that women should be obedient to their husbands. Shouldn’t both partners be complete equals, they might ask? Why should one be obedient to another? How might we disentangle all the issues and motivations that enter into this equation? One important question to answer is: Does this verse describe an absolute rule that is essential to the ideal marriage, or is it merely meant to describe a practical working relationship? The expectations common today in some postmodern societies where women do work equal to men, and in some cases earn more and assume greater responsibilities than men, are very different from the conditions and expectations that have been typical for the last fourteen centuries. To take this verse as an absolute and rigid requirement contradicts the spirit of the Qur’an as a whole, which emphasizes using our intelligence and compassion. We also have the example of Muhammad’s marriage to Khadija, no shrinking violet, a woman of means and worldly accomplishment who was fifteen years his senior.
On the other hand, women who might find this verse absolutely objectionable may have something to learn from it. Most of us would agree that there are generally differences between man and woman in physical capacities and temperament. It is generally a man’s place to take a certain kind of responsibility for his wife and family; at the same time, a wife and mother will assume responsibilities according to her physical capacities and temperament. Realistically, we have different kinds of leadership in different situations, which benefits us as long as that leadership is intelligent and fair. Furthermore, there are different leadership styles, and the best leadership inspires cooperation and loyalty rather than merely dictating obedience. Of course, in agreeing to a marriage one would hope that both husband and wife consider the character of the person they are marrying, and in the end, either husband and wife, if a marriage becomes intolerable, can make the difficult choice to divorce.
A friend of mine with whom I discussed this passage had an insight that I would like to share. He said, “Perhaps men are insecure and vulnerable. Perhaps this obedience from the wife can help to support her husband in a way that he needs and will make him a better husband, and through this she will improve her own situation.” Clearly, if the suggestion that “the righteous women are obedient” is used by men to lord it over women, we have a problem. But if the passage can be understood by women in a positive spirit of cooperation, then it seems more likely the family could achieve a dynamic balance of well-being. It is important to remember that the Qur’an offers comprehensive guidance for living a spiritual life. Within the framework of this guidance, if a man does his part—supporting a family, living with kindness and equity—the wife’s cooperation and the husband’s consideration would both arise naturally.
– Kabir Helminski in Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation, and the Needs of our Time
The question of racist and misogynistic hadith is one that immensely bothers not only Muslim feminists but non-Muslims, Muslim women, and anyone who encounters these hadith believing Islam to be a religion of liberation and justice. I’ve been recently endeavoring to study the Sunnah and have seen these provocative traditions and the scholarly responses to them. I want to share what I’ve learned to ease the concerns of others.
Love the Arabs for three reasons; because I Muhammad am an Arab, the Holy Qur’an was revealed in Arabic and the language of Jannah will be Arabic.
Mustadrak al-Hakim (vol. 4 pg. 87)
The scholarly opinions are this hadith is weak, false, and/or fabricated.
- Abu Hatim in his Jarh wa Ta’deel (Vol. 3 pg. 359) declared this hadith false
- Ibn al-Jawzi stated this tradition is fabricated 
- Al-Dhahabi said he believed this hadith was fabricated 
- Al-Albani in his Silsilah Ahadith al-Da’ifah wa al-Mawdu’ah listed this hadith as fabricated 
- Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz characterized this hadith as “fabricated” and “not authentically reported from the Messenger of Allah as pointed out by Hadith [sic] scholars” 
Al-Albani noted the chain of this hadith and scholarly opinions on it. According to him, Al-Suyuti said one of the narrators of this hadith, Shbil b. ‘Ala, reported strange hadith according to Ibn ‘Adiyy. Al-Haythami rejected the narrator ‘Abdul ‘Aziz b. ‘Imran and this narrator was questioned by Ibn Ma’in and al-Hafiz al-‘Iraqi. 
It is stated in the Qur’an God loves acts of goodness and the people who do acts of goodness.
So do good for God loves those who do good. (v. 2:195)
For God loves those who seek pardon, and those who are clean. (v. 2:222)
Verily God loves those who are just. (v. 49:9)
The Qur’an also specifies the behavior God dislikes.
Fight those in the way of God who fight you, but do not be aggressive: God does not like aggressors. (v. 2:190)
O sons of Adam, attire yourselves at every time of worship; eat and drink, but do not be wasteful, for God does not like the prodigals. (v. 7:31)
Do not hold men in contempt, and do not walk with hauteur on the earth. Verily God does not like the proud and boastful. (v. 31:18)
It is not said in the Qur’an God loves individuals for their ethnic origin or they deserve more love than others for their ethnicity. In the clearest words, the Qur’an says God created different groups of people deliberately and there is only distinguishment in virtue.
O men, We created you from a male and female, and formed you into nations and tribes that you may recognise each other. He who has more integrity has indeed greater honour with God. Surely God is all-knowing and well-informed. (v. 49:13)
Muhammad Asad commented on the nature of this verse in establishing the equality of humanity beyond ethnic or racial boundaries.
[To] know that all belong to one human family, without any inherent superiority of one over another (Zamakhshari). This connects with the exhortation, in the preceding two verses, to respect and safeguard each other’s dignity. In other words, men’s evolution into “nations and tribes” is meant to foster rather than to diminish their mutual desire to understand and appreciate the essential human oneness underlying their outward differentiations; and, correspondingly, all racial, national or tribal prejudice (‘as abiyyah) is condemned – implicitly in the Qur’an, and most explicitly by the Prophet (see second half of note 15 on 28:15).
In addition, speaking of people’s boasting of their national or tribal past, the Prophet said: “Behold, God has removed from you the arrogance of pagan ignorance (jahiliyyah) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but a God-conscious believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” (Fragment of a hadith quoted by Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah.)
As Muslims, we observe love for what God loves and dislike what God dislikes. This is the natural progression of faith in Islam. We’ll love what Allah loves like modesty, piety, kindness, faith, and justice and hate aggression, meanness, haughtiness, and cruelty.
In a hadith, it is said, “Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, hates for the sake of Allah, gives for the sake of Allah, and withholds for the sake of Allah has perfected the faith.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4681).
It is clear that we cannot love someone only for their ethnicity. We love acts of goodness and dislike acts of evil. We love for a person, even if he sins, to have goodness in his life as we strive to have in ours and we hate their sin as we hate our sin.  We love for an Arab person the goodness and piety we love for ourselves just as we love for a German, a Kurd, or a Swede. We love the Arabs as our brothers and sisters in humanity or in the Ummah just like we love the non-Arabs the same.
O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favor of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin, nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message? 
- “Is Arabic the language of the people of Paradise?”
- Nasiruddin Al-Albani quoted in Syed Iqbal Zaheer’s Fake Pearls, pg. 91
- The Hadith “Love Arabs for three reasons”
- Nasiruddin Al-Albani quoted in Syed Iqbal Zaheer’s Fake Pearls, pg. 91
- “Love the sinner, hate the sin”
- Musnad Ahmad 22978
The best of you are those who are best to women – Muhammad
In part one of this series, I delved into the case of Henda Ayari, and why I believe she is truthful in her allegations.
- She made the claims of rape consistently over 2016 and into 2017 when she named her attacker as Tariq Ramadan. In 2012, she told Salim Laibi and Alain Soral about Ramadan’s attack. To suggest her statements are fabricated is to suggest she’s been planning a multi-year conspiracy to attack Ramadan.
- Some have claimed she made up the allegations in light of the #MeToo movement knowing people would believe her claims as other allegations by women turned out to be true and to attack Ramadan. Her autobiography describing her rape is documented and predates the #MeToo movement by a year, and she contacted Salim Laibi and Alain Soral in 2012, so this is no opportunistic claim.
- Her account of her attack closely matches the criminal pattern in accounts of his other accusers
- If she lied, then her career and activism would be destroyed when exposed
- Some have said she’s lying as she’s an “ex-Muslim”, but she identifies herself as a “proud Muslim woman” who is a feminist activist for Muslim women, and Ramadan’s website promotes women’s rights within Islam as well. If they are both French activists for Muslim women’s rights (and Ramadan is honest in his public persona not like what Christelle, Caroline Fourest, and others claim), then it would be strange for Henda to make a false rape accusation to defame Ramadan for only some disagreements in the particulars of belief when they’re working towards the same goal – improve the status of French Muslim women.
- By stating publicly Ramadan raped her she’s put herself in physical danger. Ayari entered into police protection in November of 2017 after receiving death threats. 
- She described conversations on Facebook, Skype, and possibly by text and phone. French authorities interviewed people close to Ayari and reviewed the messages exchanged between her and Ramadan. [2A]
- Henda would know the reaction to her accusing Ramadan would be disbelief, slander, and threats.
This is why I think Henda is truthful.
Let’s examine the case of the second woman he’s charged with raping who is being called “Christelle”.
Christelle is the pseudonym for the second woman he is being held for allegedly raping. She is reported as having a disability in her legs. She gave a candid interview to the French version of the Magazine Vanity Fair detailing her rape and the circumstances thereof.
Christelle first began contact with Ramadan on New Year’s Eve of 2008 after he responded to a New Year’s greeting she sent to her Facebook contacts. She had converted to Islam that same year. The two began an intimate relationship talking over Skype and telephone. By September of 2009, their relationship escalated and Ramadan initiated a “temporary marriage” over Skype.
On October 9th, she planned to meet him at a hotel for an Islamic conference in the city of Lyon. She met with Ramadan for coffee and he became nervous of people noticing the two and suggested they go upstairs to his room to chat. In the room, she reports Ramadan began to beat her, sodomized her, raped her with an object, and pulled her by her hair and urinated on her.  Ramadan then allegedly put her clothes at a height she could not reach so she would not be able to escape. 
Christelle accused Ramadan of rape in October of 2017 shortly after Henda Ayari made similar accusations. In February of 2018, Ramadan was questioned by the French authorities for the assaults of Henda Ayari and Christelle, and then he was ultimately arrested, charged and imprisoned.[2B] Ramadan was denied bail as a flight risk and is awaiting trial.
Many have alleged the charges against Ramadan are baseless and he is wrongfully imprisoned simply as a result of racism and Islamaphobia. The proceedings of the court are quite discreet, however, it does seem there is sufficient evidence to charge Ramadan for the rapes and an extensive investigation was launched by the French government.
Christelle underwent three hours of testimony in front of a judge in Ramadan’s presence in February. A considerable amount of evidence appears to exist against Ramadan in the rape case of Christelle.
- She noted in her testimony Ramadan has a scar on his genitals which she could not have known unless they were in intimate contact with each other[2C]
- She told Vanity Fair she was seen drinking coffee with Ramadan by onlookers which made Ramadan nervous. This means there are potential witnesses who could place Ramadan at the hotel with Christelle around the time she says she was assaulted and one man has already come forward. [3A]
- Christelle also says in the Vanity Fair piece Ramadan was receiving phone calls from journalists asking for his opinion on Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. It seems improbable she would know this detail unless she was with Ramadan that day as she says. [3B]
- Vanity Fair states Christelle showed the reporter pictures of her swollen and deformed face after the attack. [3C]
- There are the records of phone, Skype and Facebook conversations between Christelle and Ramadan. [3D] According to Qantara, “During three months of investigations since the allegations emerged, police have interviewed dozens of people close to both Ramadan and the two women and examined email and social media exchanges between them.” [2D]
- Christelle states Ramadan messaged her the day after the attack [3E]
- Christelle also attempted to file a police report regarding the attack in November of 2009 [3F]
- Christelle sought medical treatment after her attack [3G]
- Reported in Al-Arabiya, ““Christelle” said that she had narrated her experience to her friends and presented messages establishing the fact. Her friends in turn had expressed their shock during their replies.” 
- Ramadan and his legal team alleged he was not in Lyon at the time of the attack and he did not arrive until later that night, but a statement from a witness has contradicted this claim. “Last week, a witness said that he and a colleague had gone to Lyon’s Saint-Exupéry airport to collect him and had met him at around 11:35 – 11:40 a.m. inside the airport, according to one of the investigators. The witness said that they then dropped Ramadan at around 12:15 p.m. at the Hilton hotel where the accuser claims she was assaulted.”  
- An email from Ramadan’s team in 2009 supported that he took an earlier flight to Lyon, and his itinerary has surfaced showing he was on the Madrid to Lyon flight which arrived at 11:15 am.
Henda and Christelle Named Ramadan as their Attacker Prior to 2017
Henda and Christelle made statements about their rape by Ramadan before their accusations were made public in 2017. After her attack in 2009, Christelle contacted Alain Soral, a French anti-Zionist activist whose writings and website were introduced to her by Ramadan, and told him how Ramadan had assaulted her. Vanity Fair reports:
Christelle lui envoie un message sur sa page Facebook avec son numéro de téléphone. Il la rappelle. « J’ai déjà été contacté par deux autres femmes, je te crois »
This translates too, “Christelle sent him a message on his Facebook page with her telephone number. He calls her back, “I have previously been contacted by two other women. I believe you.” Christelle’s claim
Christelle also contacted Salim Laibi according to Vanity Fair. [3H]
Christelle also contacted Caroline Fourest after her alleged rape. Christelle states she was raped on October 9th, 2009. A Skype conversation occurred between Christelle and a friend three weeks later on October 24th, 2009. In this conversation, the friend suggests Christelle should contact Caroline Fourest about the rape by Ramadan and she agrees. The other woman notes Fourest is debating him a few weeks later in November of 2009. Two days later on October 26th, 2009, Christelle messaged her friend to confirm Fourest has replied to her message. A news article states Christelle said she first met Fourest on November 15th, 2009, one day before the debate. †
Fourest states on her personal blog she was aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Ramadan since 2009 , the same year Christelle states she was raped. Fourest and Ramadan’s public debate was set to occur on November 16th, 2009.  Fourest’s blog says a woman contacted her accusing Ramadan of rape on an unspecified date before her November 16th debate with Ramadan. Fourest initially refused to believe the woman thinking it might be a ploy to undermine her in her debate against Ramadan. The woman’s messages became more detailed, and Fourest met her in person to clarify the issue on November 15th, the day before her debate with Ramadan. The woman introduced Fourest to three other women who claimed abuse by Ramadan. Fourest states, “She [Christelle] showed me text messages and pictures that confirmed her allegations against Ramadan.”[10A] The German-Muslim newspaper Qantara confirms French authorities in the rape investigation against Ramadan “examined email and social media exchanges between them [Ayari and Christelle to Ramadan].” [2E] Christelle spoke to her friends after the rape and showed them messages confirming the incident with Ramadan. [6A] So after her rape by Ramadan, Christelle and one of the friends planned to out Ramadan for the rape by contacting Fourest, who wrote the 2007 book, Frère Tariq, where she accused Ramadan of dishonesty in his writings, apparently hoping Fourest would bring up his sexual misconduct in the debate to attack Ramadan. Fourest declined to mention this in the debate or write about this, saying, “I had enough evidence to demonstrate the duplicity of Tariq Ramadan without entering such a sordid area.”[10B]
On Fourest’s French-language blog, she confirms she had previously been in contact with Christelle and began contact again after Henda and Christelle’s accusations surfaced publicly.
Ayari had of course written about her attack in her 2016 autobiography, but likewise had contacted Soral and Laibi after her attack in 2012. [3I]
The accusations of rape are clearly not recently fabricated or spontaneous claims by Henda or Christelle, and they show remarkable similarities to each other. Ramadan started the relationships by reaching out to the victims on Facebook. Then, he started chatting with them on Skype. Finally, he lured them into the privacy of different hotel rooms and violently physically and sexually assaulted both women.
Why is He Being Held? – The Others
I believe the French government has more reasons they are holding Ramadan than simply fear of him skipping town.
They know Henda and Cristelle are not Ramadan’s only two victims in France or in the world.
Henda Ayari’s lawyer, Jonas Haddad, has implied the existence of more victims, “If there are other victims in France or elsewhere, they now know that the justice system will respond to what has happened to them.”
The Qantara article continues, “Women who have testified anonymously during three months of preliminary investigations might now also file rape complaints”, one of the sources said.” There is an unknown number of additional women who were assaulted by Ramadan and testified against him. [2F]
Alain Soral said in reply to Christelle contacting him about her rape he had previously been contacted by two different women saying Ramadan assaulted them. Ayari’s rape occurred in 2012 while Christelle was raped in 2009 so Ayari cannot be one of these two anonymous women. These are two anonymous women who say they were attacked by Ramadan. [3J] No women that I know of have publicly accused Ramadan of sexual abuse in France around 2009 besides Christelle.
According to Fourest, Christelle put her in contact in 2009 with three other women who said Ramadan engaged in sexual misconduct with them. [10C]
I do not know the particulars of how Christelle came into contact with these women. I believe it’s possible Alain Soral gave Christelle the information of the two other women who approached him, but I cannot know what overlap there is, if any, between the two women who complained to Soral and the three others to Fourest. Here are the potentials:
- The two anonymous women who spoke to Soral also spoke to Fourest. Plus Christelle, this is only three women. That means there’s one additional victim in France who made known accusations around 2009. Three anonymous victims from 2009 (not including Christelle).
- One woman spoke only to Soral and not Fourest. The other woman who spoke to Soral also spoke with Fourest. Christelle is known as having spoken with Fourest, meaning two unaccounted for victims. Four anonymous victims (not including Christelle).
- The two women who spoke to Soral are separate individuals than the ones who spoke to Fourest. Five anonymous victims in France around 2009 (not including Christelle).
Fourest states on her blog Ramadan initiated casual, religious relationships with the women which turned into relationships of violent and humiliating sexual obligation. He allegedly threatened the women into compliance. Fourest felt one woman had been subjected to such violence by Ramadan that charges should be brought against him. She brought the woman to a judge, but the girl was too frightened to proceed. [10D]
In November of 2017, it was reported Bernard Godard, a French government official who was acquainted with Ramadan, knew of Ramadan’s misconduct with women, but not of any rapes. The National reports, “”That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned,” he told French magazine L’Obs.” 
Many supporters of Ramadan have claimed he is a victim of an over-zealous, racist, Islamaphobic government, but it appears members of the French government may have known of Ramadan’s sexual misconduct with women but did not act until recently. Bernard Godard said he knew Ramadan would bring girls to his room and when the girls resisted he’d become violent and angry. It’s hard for me to believe Godard’s claim he’s “stunned” about the rapes when he knew Ramadan was sleeping with numerous women and seducing women, enticing them into a private space, and then would display anger and violence if they resisted his sexual advances. To quote the National, “The claim puts the French authorities in a tricky position as it suggests they were aware of Mr Ramadan’s abusive behavior towards women but failed to act.” [13A] Christelle states she attempted to report Ramadan to the police in November of 2009. [3K] Caroline Fourest states she brought a woman before a judge to seek prosecution against Ramadan, but the woman was too frightened. [10E] Ramadan’s aggressive behavior towards women wasn’t unknown to government officials, but they only acted definitively after Henda Ayari’s accusation.
Aisha Ali-Khan, a British women’s rights activist, was aware of Ramadan’s sexual misconduct with women going back to 2008. In 2011, she spoke to a British police officer about a potential case against Ramadan that was dropped. 
The statements made by Alain Soral, Caroline Fourest, Bernard Godard, and Aisha Ali-Khan all corroborate there are more victims then have come out publicly. The French government also took the testimonies on Ramadan from an unspecified number of anonymous women. [6B]
In addition to the risk of him fleeing, I feel there is sufficient evidence to say the French government is holding him as they know he raped more than only two women, to show his still closeted victims they take this matter seriously, to build a stronger case against him, and most of all, embolden and encourage more women to step forward by jailing him until trial.
And it appears to be working.
On March 7th, a third French woman came forward alleging Ramadan repeatedly violently raped and humiliated her and she attempted to escape the relationship but was threatened by him.  Again, this claim correlates to numerous other accusations against Ramadan like his rape and strangling of Ayari, his threats against her, and his attempts to use Ayari for a continued sexual relationship. It matches the story of Christelle who says she was raped, sodomized, beaten, and urinated on by Ramadan. It correlates to the accounts of the three additional anonymous women who spoke to Fourest and said Ramadan subjected them to violent and humiliating sexual acts and threatened them.
Around the same time, the American-Muslim attorney Rabia Chaudry said an American Muslim woman approached her with a complaint about Ramadan, and Chaudry referred the woman to an American federal prosecutor. It was reported in The National that the woman accused Ramadan of pressing his genitals against her chest against her will. 
On April 13th, a woman from Switzerland accused Ramadan of raping her in a hotel room in Geneva. Similar to other cases, the woman says Ramadan held her hostage in a hotel room and raped her. 
His continued imprisonment has led to several more women only in the past few weeks coming forward with alleged incidents of rape or sexual misconduct.
I believe one of the motivations of the French government in holding him in prison is the risk he presents to women. Four women have publically accused him of rape in different cities and nations. One woman accused him of unwanted genital contact. Statements by various individuals indicate Ramadan was involved in other inappropriate sexual relationships with female followers. There appears to be a number of anonymous women who have not publically accused him. Other accusations about his inappropriate sexual behavior exist as well (and I’ll address these later). Releasing him puts women’s well-being in danger. He is highly intelligent, charismatic, and manipulative and apparently engaged in violent and humiliating sexual behavior towards his female followers for years in various countries while evading prosecution. This is not a man who should be released because of the risk he poses to women.
Revision April 15th, 2018: In the first posting of this article I stated the claims against Ramadan by the American woman were unknown. Today I found a newspaper specifying the accusations against him. I also spoke of the four women who contacted Fourest, but have become aware through research the first woman to seek contact with her was Christelle. I’ve edited the post to reflect these new discoveries.
Revision on July 27, 2018: I previously included a paragraph stating the Muslim organization related to the 2009 rape case voluntarily disclosed information outing Tariq Ramadan as lying about his alibi, but more research has indicated to me this information came about from interrogation by the French police, so I have removed that paragraph.
† I have opted not to link to this article because of its harmful contents.
I’m fairly sure no one reads my blog after I abandoned it for two years, but I do not want to remain silent on this matter and hope some will view this post, and I also want to share my opinion on this.
Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe’s most famous Islamic scholars, is being held in prison for charges of rape against two French women. All over the world, there are men jumping to his defense, proclaiming his innocence, protesting his imprisonment and defaming his “accusers” (AKA his many victims). I don’t agree with their opinions. I believe the French authorities are correct in charging him with the rapes and holding him in prison. As I do not know the details, I cannot say whether the treatment he is receiving in prison in regards to medical care and such is just or not, but his imprisonment and arrest in general, in my view, is warranted and the French authorities have valid reasons to hold him.
I present the facts and my beliefs to the best of my abilities. I think I will have to split this into multiple parts.
The Henda Ayari Case
Henda Ayari, the first woman to accuse him of rape, has described the attack and how it happened in detail and has made this claim repeatedly. Ayari is a former Salafi who released her autobiography, J’ai choisi d’être libre, in 2016. In this book, she describes her rape by an Islamic intellectual in 2012 she calls “Zubair”. In the Fall of 2017, she stated her attacker was Tariq Ramadan. To say the least, I think it would be strange for this woman to be in a years-long, planned conspiracy against Tariq Ramadan. Her book where she describes her rape predates the #MeToo movement, so unless she’s a psychic, she couldn’t have known this movement, which is why she named Ramadan, would arise.  This defeats the claim she’s doing this opportunistically making spur-of-the-moment allegations against Ramadan bolstered by the #MeToo movement.
In a French newspaper last year, Ayari describes her attack and the circumstances in detail. Ayari states Ramadan contacted her on Facebook and then the two began chatting on Skype. In March of 2012, Ayari states she met Ramadan in a hotel room. She and Ramadan consensually kissed and Ramadan then jumped on her, began strangling her, raped her, and slapped her. She alleges Ramadan wanted to set up future meetings with her for sex. When she told Ramadan she wished to report him for the rape, she stated he threatened the safety of her children and threatened to release illicit photographs of her.  Her story matches closely the incidents described by the other accusers.
Ayari has been defamed by people saying she’s an apostate from Islam and shouldn’t be believed (and this is shitty for so many reasons I’ll get into), but it seems Ayari identifies herself as a Muslim still. In her French interview, she says, “Je me considère comme une femme musulmane. Et j’en suis fière.” This translates to, “I consider myself a Muslim woman. And I am proud.” She continues, “Une musulmane qui respecte les lois de la République.” She again refers to herself as a Muslim. I think it’s pretty fair to say from these statements she believes in Islam and identifies as a Muslim, so not only are people accusing her of lying, but they’re making takfir against her only because she says she was violently attacked by their fave scholar or because they heard other people say she isn’t a Muslim. If she says she is a Muslim, then I’ll believe her. I, and many of those pronouncing takfir on her, don’t speak French (or know her personally), and don’t have evidence she’s outside of Islam in her beliefs (and there’s tons of different rulings, beliefs, and forms of Islam anyway). Being open about being raped doesn’t make her a non-Muslim. Accusing a scholar people like of rape doesn’t make her a non-Muslim. No one knows what’s in her heart but God. I believe she’s a Muslim just as she says.
Pronouncing takfir on other people in Islam is a serious matter as evidenced by the Qur’an, many hadith, and scholars. Like:
- Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When a man says to his brother: O disbeliever! Then it will return to at least one of them.” (rated sahih by al-Bukhari) 
- Abu Dharr reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A man does not accuse another man of wickedness or unbelief but that it will return against him if his companion is innocent.” (rated sahih by al-Bukhari 
Towards the end of his life, the renowned scholar Ibn Taymiyya, beloved by modern Salafis, took a strong stance against pronouncing takfir on other Muslims.  As reported by Adh-Dhahabi, “Our Sheikh Ibn Taymiyyah said near the end of his life, “I will not declare anyone from this nation to be an unbeliever.” 
To me, it adds a whole new level of repulsiveness that other Muslims are accusing her of apostasy not because they think her doctrinal beliefs place her outside of Islam, but because she states she was raped by a scholar they admire.
But let’s stop for a minute, even if she is a non-Muslim then how does that mean she’s automatically lying about being raped? It doesn’t. And anyway, being violently raped by a famous scholar is definitely the kind of thing that could push a person out of Islam if she were an ex-Muslim.
The responses to Ayari’s rape accusations against Ramadan reveals the rape culture present, well, apparently all over the world. Instead of critically examining the claims and evidence, people have jumped to defaming her character and accusing her of being a liar, an apostate, and a lascivious and immoral woman. They idolize the views and character of one Muslim man so much they’re willing to sin against a Muslimah by saying she’s an apostate and other insults because of what she says about this man.
The claims against Tariq Ramadan are shocking. Horrendous. Sickening. I feel some Muslims may jump to defaming Henda’s character and the other accusers because they can’t believe a man who presents himself as being so handsome, intelligent, educated, well-spoken and moral would brutally attack and harass Muslim women. I am convinced he is guilty for many reasons, and even I struggle to understand how this is true.
But he’s just a man. He’s not the sum of Islam. He’s not a Prophet. He’s not God and most of all he’s not a victim.
And he is not the only Islamic scholar around. There are many brilliant scholars around today, including women, who are educated and of good character too. Islam is not the sum of this man and what he did or didn’t do and no one’s behavior towards other Muslims or faith in Islam should rest on him.
I’m reminded of the incident between Umar and Abu Bakr words after the Prophet’s death.
Abu Bakr said, “Amma ba’du, whoever amongst you worshipped Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, Allah is alive and will never die.
To be continued.
I was looking for more articles to post on this blog about 4:34 in the Qur’an and domestic violence in Islam on JSTOR. I discovered the articles To beat or not to beat: on the exegetical dilemmas over Qur’an, 4:34 by Mohamed Mahmoud and Disciplining Wives: A Historical Reading of Qur’an 4:34 by Manuela Marin. The first one is available free on the linked site. The other article is available on loan through JSTOR for free. If you are in high school or college, check to see if your institution offers JSTOR. My county’s public library system offers many databases accessible only with a library card and some counties might offer JSTOR as well.
The first article speaks of how Muslim authors tried to limit violence in 4:34 and their different interpretations thereof. It describes how male scholars accepted a patriarchal paradigm of men being in control of women and the ways they justified this with reflections on “superior” male qualities and “inferior” female qualities. The final section before the conclusion focuses on feminist interpretations which are critiqued by the author. It’s alright to critique, but he doesn’t seem to critique patriarchal interpretations to the same extent as the feminist ones. He is dismissive of Amina Wadud’s interpretation of nushuz because he states the Qur’an privileges men over women in gender relations. Amina Wadud doesn’t believe this. He is doing a disservice to her by failing to recognize the reclamation by Muslim feminists of the non-patriarchal nature of the Qur’an and the wider body of Wadud’s works explaining this. In short, he has failed to comprehend Muslim feminism while critiquing it. However, I agree with his criticism of Hassan. Hassan’s interpretation is troubling to me, particularly as a woman who doesn’t desire children, because it implies women’s reproductive rights should rest with men and that men could (or can) force women into submission until they reproduce.
Mahmoud does not critique interpretations of the words qawwamuna (qawwam) and qanitatun (qanitat) and phrase bima faddala lahu ba’dahum ala ba’din in 4:34. The male mufassirun assumed male authority over women from these words, so there is no critical discussion of these ideas from a feminist perspective. Mahmoud also accepts the traditional interpretations are factual.
The second paper is longer and more intensive. As the title suggests, she focuses on historical perspectives on 4:34. She delves into historical sources to recreate the context of the ayah and domestic abuse and husband-wife relations in the early Muslim community. She explores interpretations of 4:34 and its historical practice and implications through different societies. The material reveals startling misogyny and violence in the works of interpreters, like Tabari and Abu Hayyan, but she ultimately concludes the interpreters justified and allowed violence against women while limiting the extent of the violence.
This article, like Mahmoud’s article, is not a critique of patriarchy. The interpreters accepted patriarchy as kings accepted their right to govern was granted by God. The article has no critique of patriarchal concepts commonly derived from the verse like male-over-female authority in marriage, male superiority, and female subordination in marriage. The only discussion of these concepts is in the ways they were accepted and expounded by the interpreters. There is no challenge to patriarchal beliefs in this article. This paper is very well researched.
Both articles describe the history of interpretations of 4:34 but do not deconstruct patriarchy or challenge traditions of domestic violence in Islam as this is not their academic goal. I found Marin’s article well-worth reading for the extensive details on the historical origins (asbab al-nuzul), practices, and interpretations of 4:34. For academic papers deconstructing the first part of 4:34, read the book Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. For a more in-depth view of domestic violence in Islam, read Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition by Ayesha Chaudhry.
I discovered some web pages claiming it is forbidden to change your name upon marriage, this is an act of kufr, and the person who does this is consigned to hell.
God consigns a woman to hell because she followed a cultural custom? How could this be true?
Well, a little digging made me find this is not true. I also realized this alleged hadith was obviously not referring to a lady taking her husband’s name on marriage when such a thing wasn’t even an existing custom in Arabia at the time of the Prophet.
Even the most conservative scholars say it is permissible to change your last name.
So there you are.
Finding a decent Qur’an translation is a struggle. I searched for a long time to find an accurate and readable translation. No English rendition of the Qur’an will ever be perfect, but some are “less perfect” than others. This is only my own personal feelings on different translations. It isn’t a comprehensive guide. My philosophy is for everyone to try out different translations and see what they like.
Disclaimer: Please note I don’t agree with every comment made or opinion held by these translators! It’s an unfortunate fact even many female translators espouse sexist views. Also, just because I identify a translation as having a certain notable attribute doesn’t mean it’s a poor translation.
AJ Arberry – My favorite Qur’an translation. In my opinion, Arberry’s rendition is one of the most masterful and beautiful ever. Arberry was a Christian with a deep respect for Islam and Sufism. He credited his religious awakening to Sufism and authored a translation of the Qur’an and numerous Sufi texts.
His translation is beautiful, poetic and readable. It isn’t weighed down with excessive commentary or constant parenthesis like so many other translations. The writing is elegant but not stilted or archaic. There are some oddities and minor translation errors. Arberry consistently translated the Arabic word jahannam to the Greek word gehenna. Gehenna would be the perfect word for a Greek Qur’an, but is an odd choice for an English translation. I noticed how Arberry tends to more “traditional” translations (like “beat” in 4:34, “hands cut off” in 5:38) that are often seen as objectionable today.
Zaki Hammad – The entire translation is written in verse! This is an obscure translation with a beautiful, literary quality to it.
Aisha Bewley – One of the few translations done by a female translator. Bewley worked to translate the Qur’an with her husband. She is an Islamic scholar and English translator of many famous Arabic manuscripts, particularly in the Maliki madhab. Her translation work is truly fantastic. Another interesting attribute is her Sufi religious background. Her translation is the only one I know of based on the Warsh qir’ah. The translation leaves key Arabic words untranslated which limits its accessibility for non-Muslims.
Ali Quli Qara’i – A Twelver Shi’a translation with a poetic feel to it. I’m a sucker for translations written in verse. Qara’i has sparse comments from a Shi’a background. He often offers fascinating information on differences of qir’ah and some Shi’a beliefs. It pairs nicely with Bewley’s translation if you would like to learn about qir’ah but don’t know Arabic well. The translation does have a slight Shi’a bias.
Laleh Bakhtiar – A female and feminist translator! Laleh Bakhtiar is a feminist-oriented Shi’a Sufi scholar. I love the poetic feel of her translation. She’s the most famous for her alternative translation of 4:34.
Ahmed Ali – Ali presents a lucid and readable translation of the Qur’an with a slight liberal and Qur’anist bent. The rare comments are generally well-researched and informative. Ali’s translation and commentary on 4:34 is impressive and intelligent. He often argues more unconventional and progressive opinions. This is the version I find frequently in libraries and bookstores.
Bijan Moeinian – A little-known translation that is strange, awkward and clunky. The translation is so poor the meaning is constantly obscured. Compare this version to any reputable translation (Arberry, Pickthall, etc) and notice the radical differences.
N, Hereby God swears by the pen and all writing instruments (including the computer keyboards nowadays) that: [68:1 – Moeinian]
Nun. By the Pen, and what they inscribe, [68:1 – Arberry]
Rashad Khalifa – A translation by a man most famous for making messianic claims and claiming at the heart of the Qur’an is a mathematical miracle centered on the number nineteen. Naturally, his translation and commentary are heavily fixated on this. In order to make the “numerical miracle” work, he claimed verses 9:128 – 129 are false interpolations into the Qur’an.
Edip Yuksel – Another Qur’an proponent of the nineteen theory whose translation and commentary center around the theory. All the disconnected letters in this version are replaced in English with a sort of code of letters and numbers. I have trouble following what on earth these mean, and I can’t be the only one. Like Rashad Khalifa, he also states 9:128 to 9:129 are not part of the Qur’an.
The commentary is substantial. I noticed through the course of reading this how many times the authors attack Shi’a and Sunni belief. Sectarianism is unappealing in a translation of any holy text. The commentary is also highly polemical to Jews and Christians. This version does have a more positive attitude as far as women’s issues go.
Ali Unal – This translation is in modern English and has astounding amounts of commentary. Like many translations in this category, it’s more of an English language tafsir than a simple translation. The commentary isn’t bad and it’s from a Sufi perspective which is fairly unique for English language commentaries.
Mir Ahmed Ali – Another translation where the amount of commentary is larger than the translated text. The commentary is from a Twelver Shi’a perspective and has a tendency for polemics. I find the commentary and learning about Shi’a beliefs about the Qur’an fascinating, but this isn’t the translation for casual reading or devotions.
Muhammad Asad – Asad was one of the most famous translators of the twentieth century. His translation is great and the commentary is extensive. Nearly every verse has commentary.
I feel again this is a book meant for intense study or reference and not casual reading. I failed repeatedly to try to read this version through just like a novel. I’ve found his work more useful as a reference book than as devotional or casual reading. His commentary and translation are the most helpful and liberal of all English commentaries I’ve seen. However, Asad’s translation and commentary reflect his own opinions and biases, and I’ve noticed, despite Asad’s Jewish heritage, he often makes harsh remarks about Jews and Judaism beyond the implications of the Qur’an.
Yusuf Ali – Another famous translator. His translation is often seen as the “default” translation in English. He includes frequent commentary that is sometimes incorrect and frequently self-explanatory or unnecessary. Ali writes the Gospel of Barnabas is factual [4:157, 3:81]. He fails to recognize in his commentary on 33:59 that enslaved women in early Islam did not cover themselves as free women (see the works of Fatima Mernissi and Khaled Abou el Fadl). Ali mistakenly understands that 3:28 says believers should only be friends and associate with other believers. Just like Asad, I’ve found he makes negative remarks about the Jews.
Muhammad Ali – This is the translation used by thousands of Lahori Ahmadi Muslims. They are a tiny Islamic sect separate from the much larger Ahmadi group. Ali had a large influence on later Qur’an translators of the twentieth century. He’s cited as an authority in Yusuf Ali’s translation of 2:65 and called by the honorific Maulvi. The translation and commentary reflect Lahori Ahmadi beliefs. One of the most different Ahmadi beliefs is that Jesus survived the cross and traveled to India where he died. An interesting and objective overview of Muslim views on the crucifixion of Christ is Todd Lawson’s The Crucifixion and the Qur’an. This translation references the Bible frequently, and I am not a huge fan of authors who position the Qur’an as religiously superior to the Bible in a Qur’an translation.
Abul A’ala Maududi – Maududi was one of the fathers of modern Islamism. He authored his commentary Tafheem ul-Qur’an over thirty years in Urdu. It has since been translated into other languages. The commentary is extensive and often fundamentalist, sexist and intolerant.
That is, those women who become prisoners of war, while their unbelieving husbands are left behind in the War Zone, are not unlawful because their marriage ties are broken by the fact that they have come from the War Zone into the Islamic Zone. It is lawful to marry such women, and it is also lawful for those, in whose possession they are, to have sexual relations with them. [Commentary of Madudi on 4:25 – compare to Asad’s commentary]
The commentary is also erroneous at times. Maududi attests the Gospel of Barnabas is factual when it is widely known as a forgery.
Hilali and Khan – A Saudi-sponsored translation with a Wahhabi religious background. This translation is renowned for its extreme, misogynist, and intolerant views embedded in the text and in the commentary. The translation has numerous interjections in parenthesis. Random words are capitalized for no reason within sentences. Arabic words are sporadically left untranslated. The text has many grammatical, translation, and spelling errors which are detailed in this study. There is another fantastic critique of this translation by Sheila Musaji on TAM. This translation is practically incomprehensible. The only positive thing I can say about it is that it does commentary through hadith and such tafasir through hadith are difficult to find in the English language.
Saheeh International – I give this translation the award for the best marketing. The name is clearly chosen to reflect authority and universality. It was done by three female converts to Islam. All of them appear to reside in or have connections to Saudi Arabia. I have heard it is a revision of Muhsin Khan. Comparing them side by side, this translation is remarkably similar to Hilali and Khan’s translation. The commentary from the former is gone and replaced with footnotes. The excessive parentheses are gone and the sporadic Arabisms in the Hilali and Khan version are now translated. It reads like an improved version of Hilali and Khan.
MM Ghali – This translation is all over the internet, but I can’t find much information about the translator. I do know this translation has far too many parentheses and remarks embedded in the text. It feels like almost every verse has additional comments from the author. This translation would have benefited so much from footnotes.
Ahmed and Samira – Another female translator! This book is designed to be a literal, reference translation not meant for casual reading. It offers multiple meanings to each verse.
E.H Palmer – Edward Henry Palmer was an orientalist who produced his Qur’an translation in 1880. The language is so outdated it is next to impossible to understand.
And when he saw his shirt rent from behind he said, ‘This is one of your tricks; verily, your tricks are mighty! Joseph! turn aside from this. And do thou, woman, ask pardon for thy fault; verily, thou wert of the sinners.’ [12:28 – 19 in E.H Palmer Qur’an]
I searched this translation online and found 1,373 occurrences of “verily”. I do admire his reasonable amount of footnotes. Verily, I don’t appreciate the lack of any verse numbers.
J.M Rodwell – An 1861 translation of the Qur’an by a Christian orientalist. The language is notably outdated. It’s not the most readable translation. I find it a little more understandable than Palmer’s.
George Sale – Lo, this is the oldest translation I know of dating from 1734. This translation is so old it’s actually older than the US government by several decades. Thomas Jefferson even owned a copy of Sale’s translation.
So many translations, so little time. A number of Qur’an translations I’m familiar with are just stupendously average. They aren’t terrible but also not amazing (Pickthall, Sarwar, Shakir, Dawood, etc). There are the translations I know about but am mostly unfamiliar with (Irving and Itani). Some I have never heard of until perusing Wikipedia (Busool and Khattab). Some I know about (Jones) but have no access too.
This page has short overviews of many different translations. Wikipedia has a list of translations available. Middle East Forum has reviews of different Qur’an translations. Bruce Lawrence has published a new book The Koran in English: A Biographyabout the history of the Qur’an in the English language.