Greg Keller/ Sun Staff Photographer

March 9, 2016

Cornell Research Fellow Addresses Misconceptions of Islam

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Correction appended

Research fellow Nimat Barazangi, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, challenged the view that Islam is a religion of submission in her discussion of the West’s understanding of Islam in a lecture Monday.

Barazangi began by explaining some of the “academic jargon” that she said pervades discussions of Islam.

“Islam comes from the Arabic word ‘aslama.’ It means being at peace with oneself,” she said. “It does not come from the root ‘sallama,’ meaning submission.”

Barazangi also highlighted the differences between Shari’ah and shari’a law.

“Shari’ah, with a capital ‘S,’ is the path that is guided by Qur’anic ethos in its totality to achieve justice,” she said. “It is neither the collection of rules derived by Muslim jurists, nor the interpretations that were solidified by Muslim leaders … under ‘Islamic law’ or ‘shari’a law’ with a small ‘s.’”

Barazangi stressed this clarification, saying “the massive use and abuse of the terms Islam and Shari’ah as the cause for the motives of violence should be the main drive for us to rethink the meaning of these terms.”

Barazangi added that modern shari’a law, and thereby Western views of Islamic states, stem from misunderstanding of the Qur’an, which she called “the primary and only divine source,” and the Hadith, or “secondary source” of narratives relating to Mohammed.

“When an individual Muslim accepts the reported narratives that ‘women are inferior in faith,’ this individual could not have understood the message of the Qur’an,” Barazangi said. “Unfortunately, a majority of modern Muslims erroneously believe that all shari’a rules are binding morally and legally to the Qur’an.”

She urged attendees to rethink the Hadith saying most of the gender-biased interpretations of the Qur’an rely on the reported narratives in the Hadith. These narratives are often misused without corroborating their narratives with the Qur’an, according to Barazangi.

“I urge Muslim women, and men for that matter, to rethink the Hadith,” Barazangi said.

Nimat also said that some Hadith narratives ‘directly contradict’ the Qur`an numerous times, pointing out that Qur`an opposes slavery, and calls for equal distribution of inheritance amongst children regardless of gender, while some Hadith narratives claim the opposite.

Barazangi explained that the development of shari’a law in the Hadith narratives is what has led to the modern status of women in Islamic-majority countries.

“Despite the fact that the Qur’anic guidance were intended to change the tribal patriarchal norms of the time, women have been mostly absent in shaping and developing Muslim thought,” Barazangi said. “They were hardly involved in developing the rules of jurisprudence … The biased rules were solidified and elevated to the level of the Qur’an.”

Barazangi argues that Qur’anic instructions concerning women have not been fully practiced “since The Prophet established the first Muslim community in the seventh century.”

The research fellow urged Muslim women to reread the Qur’an, calling the act of reinterpretation “scholarship-activism”, and called on an intrafaith reformation to shift the world’s view of Islam.

The lecture was sponsored by the Cornell Avon Global Center for Women and Justice.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Nimat Barazangi as a professor at Cornell. She is in fact a research fellow. 

  • Redhogg

    Islam is more closely associated with the definition of a Cult than a religion.

    And if we dear speak on islsm, we must provide a honest view of what it is, or have no discussion at all. Defining terms used in islam has value but society really has to see islam for what it is. And it’s not a pretty picture by any means.

    • BobtheAmericanMuslim

      And an honest view would be what exactly? Is an honest view in your case, be from a non Muslim or someone with the same misunderstanding as you? Perhaps you are still confused between Islam and Saudi Arabian culture and the difference? There is however,”not a pretty picture”, it is a culture where facts are formed by subjection of an opinion and no real research or experience. For your own good and that of others, know what you are talking about before you speak.

      • Redhogg

        Yes, an honest unbiased view would should come from those who have no interest in Islam. You make it seem as if that would be impossible or a bad choice. Only the bank robbers view on bank robbing should be valid in your view, how ridiculous is that.

        Then you assume I could not know what I am talking about, I suppose, because my view in not positive on Islam.

        Rather than make that claim you should have listed all that is wonderful in Islam that must have missed in my observation.

        Islam cannot survive in a free open society where people are free to question and reject it’s false notions and claims. Islam has no place in America or any civilized country for that matter, it’s a lie that has been allowed to go unchallenged and should no more.

  • Abe ’14

    “Islam comes from the Arabic word ‘aslama.’ It means being at peace with oneself,” she said. “It does not come from the root ‘sallama,’ meaning submission.”

    This is completely inaccurate. It is the same falsehood that Obama perpetuated last month. This is almost unanimously understood by Muslim scholars. So for this professor to blatantly mislead students is irresponsible and typical.

  • Nusairat

    “Namit also said that Hadith narratives “directly contradict” the Qur’an numerous times, pointing out that –Qur’an opposing slavery and equal distribution of inheritance amongst children regardless of gender, while sections of the Hadith claim the opposite.”

    This is a false claim, in the Quran inheritance distribution is not equal between genders (I’m not sure which Quran the prof is reading).. Also, which authentic Hadith contradicts the Quran? In Islam if a hadith contradicts the Quran then the hadith is rejected and ignored (it is called fabricated hadeeth)… Academic honesty requires providing evidence for each claim (I do not see it covered in this article, but she might have covered it in the talk)..

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  • milx

    This lecture amounts to Islamic apologetics. I commend Prof. Barazangi on her radical activist reinterpretation of the role of the Hadith in Islamic jurisprudence and culture but it does no one any favors to pretend like the Hadiths aren’t canonical works that underpin much of Islamic life throughout the world.

  • Willothy

    EVERYONE who existed when the Quran was written was “gender biased.” What a farce. Quit trying to whitewash a primitive and barbaric document

  • warren raymond

    Never buy your islam from a Mohammedan female. According the Qu’ran, her witness is only half of a man’s and she is “deficient in religion and intelligence”. She is to be beaten and not fit to lick the puss from the nose of her master; hell is full of women, where they are hanging from their breasts, because they didn’t appreciate the goodness of their owners. This, and much more, is the legacy of Muhammad.Prof. Nima Barazangi’s Islam is not worth the dirt under my fingernails, and no infidel should give her the time of day.

  • Arafat

    FEELINGS OVER FACTS: Why Leftism needs to be eradicated from Education.

  • Arafat

    The Left and Islam really do join and merge in academia. Higher education is a fraud and it has been sold out by the Deans, Chairs, and Presidents of all Universities. This is no different than the Nazi scholars peopling the universities in Germany to justify anti-Jew hatred with scholarly treatise.

  • Arafat

    I often wonder how a human brain takes all information coming into it and changes reality into just the opposite. Beyond my comprehension what makes a lib brain become so stupid.

  • Arafat

    Again can be seen that willful ignorance of evil is worse than evil itself.

  • Arafat

    It is getting hard to keep up with all these Qur’an-inspired atrocities that have nothing to do with Islam.

  • Arafat

    Muslims are surely the most deeply prejudiced people in the world. Such errant nonsense and race hatred go right past the Leftarded cultural Marxists.

  • Arafat

    You would have made an excellent collaborator for the Master Race.

  • Arafat

    ISLAMOREALISM means I know why I cannot publish an book critical of Mohammed and his child marriage without hiring fulltime armed guards.

  • Arafat

    Seeming to give credence to Orwell’s quip that “some ideas are so stupid they could only have been thought of by intellectuals.”