Why does Amina Wadud think that the Qur’an can be read in a more women-friendly way?

In the article written by Amina Wadud, titled Quran, Gender and Interpretative Possibilities, we see one of the emerging trends in contemporary Islamic discourse. That beyond the commonly understood and accepted fact of ‘the text’ being of revelatory nature, one has to take into account other socio-historical circumstances of 7th century A.D, in order to open up interpretative possibilities. For example, considering that patriarchal social systems are the norm during the time of revelation, one can see why the choice of a male ‘messenger of God’ in the form of Prophet Mohammad strengthened the status quo. What Wadud seems to be implying is that although there is no dispute about the revealed word, its documentation and dissemination was exclusively done by men, making it susceptible to sub-conscious (if not deliberate) gender bias. Seen in this perspective, the Holy book could be interpreted as a divine code meant to apply only to men and which employs masculine language and viewpoints throughout. With this new understanding it is then a natural course of action to reinterpret the text from a female point of view, by discounting historical patriarchal prejudices and attitudes toward women.

Added to this there are limitations of language itself, which is found inadequate in encapsulating the numinous and transcendent into the range of common human experience. However sophisticated the syntax, grammar and flexibility of Arabic languages, they cannot capture experiences that are beyond words. This could mean that there is a divergence between divine intent and the Holy Quran. Also, divine revelation is a process and not an event. This was true even during the life of Prophet Mohammad, when divine guidance did not cease to arrive to him till his last days. So, if one sees the guidance provided by Allah as perennial and emergent, there is plenty of scope for constructing a fair and just code for women’s role in society. If one would accommodate these adjustments to the reading of Quran, as the author Amina Wadud proposes, the the text ceases to be as oppressive for women as it is made out to be. I largely agree with the author’s assessment and her suggestions for a progressive reinterpretation of the Quran.