The notion of “dispute and dialogue” and Women liberation in the Quran

“Allah hath heard the saying of her that disputeth with thee (Muhammad) concerning her husband, and complaineth unto Allah. And Allah heareth your dialogue. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower. ” – Al-Mujadilah  (The Disputation) – 58:1  (Picktall)  

“Such of you as put away your wives (by saying they are as their mothers) They are not their mothers; none are their mothers except those who gave them birth–they indeed utter an ill word and a lie. And lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” – Al-Mujadilah  (The Disputation) – 58:2  (Picktall) 

Unfortunately, these verses above, 58:1-2, did not take its fair share in the literature and essays of Muslim writers. We find that there are more interests committed on verses dealing with the concept of mut’ah marriage-temporary marriage as well as we find many Muslim writers focus more on verses dealing with punishments, killing the infidels, violence, etc..(Even though such verses revealed within its own historical contexts, Muslim scholars take them out of context to satisfy the dictates of their school of thoughts.)

I return to these two verses 58:1-2, after examining these verses, we clearly see wonderful lessons in human sociology and specifically it shows the high status of women in God’s sight and the attention of the Almighty God given to women’s humanity.

In a quick glance at verse 58:1, we see that the woman concerned has argued with the Holy Prophet about her husband, but it is clear that the Prophet did not argue back with her, as it is obvious in the verse, “..of her that disputeth with thee (Muhammad)…” Secondly, we see from the original text that this woman’s concerns complained to God directly and did not complain to the Prophet as it is clear from the verse “.. and complaineth unto Allah...” which suggests that the complaint of injustice to be directed to the One God Almighty and not to any other deity; Prophet, or saint, etc…

Furthermore, we see that the Holy Prophet did not argue with her, rather he (as) engaged in dialogue with her. This can be seen in the verse, “God hears your dialogue …” The reason for this is that he (as) recognized that she was oppressed by her husband and by the abhorrent social norm called “al-thihar-a husband declares his wife to be his mother out of anger or for other devious reason”

This is quick commentary over these verses. In addition to these notes we see that verse 58:1, refers to valuable concepts related to human behaviour interaction. One of these concepts is that the verse refers to the concept of “dispute or argument-jidal” and the concept of “dialogue-hiwar”. These two concepts stated separately and clearly suggesting that they are different concepts and not synonymous, each deals with an important aspect of human behavior and the foundations of social relations among members of society. Now, in short, we see the difference between these two concepts. Let’s take the first concept and that is “dispute or argue-jidal” which is referred to in the verse 58:1, as in “tujadulika”, it is worth noting here is that this original Arabic term is not accurately translated by many Quran English versions. However, the closest rendition to the original Arabic offered by “pickthal” Quran version.  Now, the term used in this verse is “tujadiluka-she disputes with you” is from the root word “jadal” which literally means to twist something with something else or to wrap something onto something else.  Its derivatives; jadal-he twisted or he disputes, jidal-disput or argument. Furthermore, in the original Arabic language, the Arabs say “jadal alhabl”, which means, “he twisted the rope” and employed to express someone who intends to twists facts or is confused about facts.

Accordingly the concept of Jidal or dispute is between two parties that do not necessarily have to agree in principle and the difference may be ideological or on the level of creed. We can see this in the Quran in reference to the ideological difference between the people of the book and the Muslims, followers of the Prophet of Islam; as in the verse 29:46, “Do not argue with the people of the book unless it is done in the best manner…”

The second concept is “the dialogue-hiwar” this can be seen in the verse, “Allah hears your dialogue..” It is known that “dialogue” is between two parties with a common understanding to serve a purpose. In the original Arabic language, according to Arab linguists, , it stated that the concept of “dialogue-hiwar” is to reconsider and rethink of thoughts in order to achieving clearer thoughts.

Early steps towards Women liberation

After this short commentary about these beautiful concepts we see that the goal of these verses is that it abolished one specific social injustice against women and that is the concept of “al-thihar“, as in the following verse;

“Such of you as put away your wives (by saying they are as their mothers) They are not their mothers; none are their mothers except those who gave them birth–they indeed utter an ill word and a lie. And lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” – Al-Mujadilah  (The Disputation) – 58:2  (Picktall)

It is worth mentioning here that the name of the entire Sura is called after this incident between this women and the Prophet of Islam. This truly reflect the importance of this incident and its impact on the initiation of the process of women liberation from the abhorrent social norms which oppresses women. I believe that this verse reflect the truthfulness of the Prophet claim simply because he (as) could have taken sides with the husband of this women, but instead he (as) chose not to argue back and forth in support of her husband. Instead he (as) engaged with her in a dialogue to comfort her. This shows the true status of women in the sight of God and it reflects the powerful prophetic mission towards social justice.

 We see that this verse above has defined this social norm “al-thihar” to be as a statement of obscenity, as stated, “..they indeed utter an ill word..”,  it is an obscene statement because it oppresses women, it is not sanctioned by Allah (SW), and it is rejected by Mans intrinsic moral values. Furthermore, the verse define this social norm “al-thihar” as it as a fraudulent act, for it is used by the husband as an excuse to rid himself  from his first wife so that he could seek more wives as he wishes. In other words, such men are to use this custom as pretext to remarry therefore they are in essence resort to this abhorrent social norm falsely and fraudulently.

Thus, this blessed verse represent one of the corner stone towards the liberation of women from one type of terrible social norms and considered one of the great achievements of the Holy Prophet of Islam.

Adill Hissan


About Adill Hissan

Public speaker, business man, writer. Studied Physics, engineering, philosophy, religions.
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