Wadud was the guest of the Islamic Studies Research Unit within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics.
Setting the tone for the presentation, Wadud expanded on her life’s journey in Islam, her involvement in Islamic Feminism and her quest for equality during which she spoke about the Musawah network of Islamic feminists and the reciprocal equality of treatment and opportunity.
Using gender as an analytical lens, Wadud examined and shared the underlying assumptions in patriarchal interpretations of the sacred texts of the Qur’an. ‘Like those of other great religions, Islam’s fundamental canons were established by the voices of men only. As the centuries passed, men’s disproportionate privilege gave them the exclusive right to act as leaders for the sacred rites and rituals obligatory upon all Muslims. Women were consigned to silent participation in supporting roles.’
Wadud argued that the influence of patriarchy on interpretation of the Qur’an and the practices of Muslims had restricted realisation of the Qur’anic message of equality and justice.
One of the arguments she advanced is that patriarchy is a form of shirk (making partners to God) because by placing men above women it contradicts the Qur’anic vision of equal and reciprocal relationships and violates the requirement that God is supreme.
She noted that Pro-faith or Islamic feminism tackled the methods of textual interpretations of the Qur’an, re-examined the canonical sources, created new interpretive methods and constructed new knowledge. ‘Muslim women advocate on their own behalf and have reached a critical mass in reclaiming their agency and responsibilities,’ said Wadud.
Said student Ms Lusanda Mgijima: ‘It was a privilege to hear Professor Wadud speak as she is one of the most important Islamic reformers of our time. We can change the situation of religion and human rights through academic engagement.’
In line with Islamic feminism, Dean and Head of the School Professor David Spurrett spoke on Shamima Shaikh, South Africa’s best known Muslim women’s rights activist, notable Islamic feminist and journalist. Shaikh is an alumnus of the former University of Durban Westville (UDW).
‘We commend the sacrifices made by women in the name of equality. Work needs to carry on to emancipate women,’ said Spurrett.