We are trying to determine whether the Qur’ānic position on women reconciles with the perspective that we see in the narrations – such as her being deficient in intellect, evil, and so on. We are not saying all the narrations say this, but many of them do. One of the evidence that the narrative on women is negative is when we look at the views and opinions of the scholars.
The fourth example we want to look at is verse 13 of al-Ḥujarāt:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
[49:13] O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.
There are numerous discussions on this verse that we can have, because it talks about different subjects. Today however, I want to discuss two aspects – one not related completely to the discussion on women, and the second is completely related to it.
Regarding the first aspect, when we go back to al-Baqarah and refer to the verse we said permitted people to follow different religions:
[2:62] Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
We notice that this verse is not inclusive of Buddhists, or Hindus, Confucians etc. However, with the verse of al-Ḥujarāt we want to prove that even following these creeds is permissible. In other words, anything a person believes in is permissible.
First evidence is that in 49:13 the verse is addressing all of mankind, not just the believers, or the Jews, or the Christians. Are Buddhists part of mankind or not? Yes they are. Then it says: Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Which Allah? Allah of the Christians, the Jews? The answer is: any Allah that one believes in. You will say, Sayyid even if we take the meaning of Islām to be something general and other than the Sharī’ah, this view still goes against the verse that says: [3:85] And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him.
Response: Imagine a person is a Buddhist or Hindu. In fact, imagine a person is a Twelver Imami Shi’ī Akhbāri. These people will know that there exists religions other than their own, or sects other than their own. No one says, I will spend twenty years to investigate all the religions and then make a decision – if you know anyone even in the seminaries who does this, let me know. Imagine a person investigates for twenty years, and reaches certainty that a certain religion is correct. This certainty over here is not the certainty we discuss in Uṣūl, rather philosophical certainty and it is impossible for it to be wrong. Two questions: 1) is this certainty Ḥujjah or not? and 2) is it allowed for this person to follow a religion other than the one they have certainty for?
The first response is, yes – we say that the certainty arrived at in Uṣūl is Ḥujjah, so of course mathematical and philosophical certainty will be Ḥujjah. The second response is, no, it is not permissible. Why? Because if you act upon something that is against your certainty, did you act on it because of evidence or without it? Without evidence – and in fact you had evidence for what is right. What if in reality the religion he decided to follow against his certainty was correct? Our own scholars have said, this will not be sufficient. They have discussed this in the topic of tajarri.
Example: If you have a glass of liquid in front of you, and you have certainty that it is alcohol – but in reality it is water – not only was this act intellectual bad, but also legally problematic (it is ḥarām according to many) and you can be held responsible on the day of Judgement. This shows as that reality has no relevance in this scenario, because what is relevant is the existence of evidence which leads a person to certainty. This is also proven from the narrations very clearly (quotes narration from al-Khiṣāl). Even in al-Itqān fi ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān of Ṣuyūṭi, volume 2 it says a similar narration.
As a matter of fact, even based on epistemology this is true. After 30-40 years if a person reaches the conclusion with certainty that a certain religion is true, does it make any sense to tell them to not act by their certainty? Makes no sense – just like we all believe that Shi’īsm is true with certainty, no one can tell us not to act on our certainty. Look at what Sayyid al-Murtaḍa says at the end of his work al-Shāfi on the topic of Imāmah:
ونحن الآن قاطعون كتابنا على هذا الموضع لوفائنا بما شرطناه وقصدناه، ولم نأل جهدا وتحريا للحق فيما اشتمل عليه هذا الكتاب من كلامنا بحسب ما بلغته أفهامنا، واتسعت له طاقتنا، ونحن نقسم على من تصفحه وتأمله لا يقلدنا في شئ منه، وأن لا يعتقد بشئ مما ذكرناه إلا ما صح في نفسه بالحجة، وقامت عليه عنده الأدلة
Based on this, if a person followed the Shi’ī sect without any evidence, and then figures out on the day of Judgement that it was the reality, they will still be held accountable.
Look at how Shaykh Nāṣir Makārem Shirāzi also says something similar in this work al-Qawā’id al-Fiqhiyyah under the principle of Ilzām (reads from passage).
This is why ‘Allamah Ṭabaṭabā’ī also argues, that the narrations which say, ‘anyone who interprets the Qur’ān with their opinion then their seat is in hell-fire’, are referring to interpretations without any evidence and that even if this opinion was in accordance to reality, they would still be punished. Meaning, it doesn’t matter if the opinion truly uncovers a reality (makshūf), rather what is problematic is the method of uncovering the truth (kashf). Some say these are just my opinions, no, we had scholars who held similar opinions, but today I have freedom by the grace of Allah (that previous scholars may not have had) and can say these things more openly.
‘Allamah writes in al-Mizān:
فالتفسير بالرأي المنهي عنه أمر راجع إلى طريق الكشف دون المكشوف
So now when we go back to the verse of al-Ḥujarāt: Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you, taqwa should be based on the evidence established for that person. Not only will such a person be excused, but rather rewarded and is the most noble.