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Offline Reader Questions

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Male-centric Reading of the Quran
« on: June 25, 2014, 10:34:57 AM »
Hello Joseph, I've been reading the quran a lot recently and one thing that i can't help but notice is that when i read the quran in english translation it always seems to me as though it speaks directly to the male reader, very rarely the female. However a reason for this could be because the verses were revealed to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who was a male. I would really appreciate it if you clarified this matter for me as your knowledge of Arab literature is greater than mine.
Thank you very much,

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Male-centric Reading of the Quran
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2014, 10:38:33 AM »
As-salam alaykum

Yes indeed, you are absolutely correct. The Quran was inspired to a male prophet who had many roles during his ministry which included spiritual leadership [1]. Many of the questions were put directly to the prophet and responses were given through him and hence a correct male-centric bias in the reading is oft noted. Please see verse 2:222 regarding menstruation as an example.

However, there are numerous direct statements in the Quran which underscore the primary addressees of the Quran (e.g. ’O Ye who believe’ (2:104) or 'O Children of Adam' (7:26); 'O Children of Israel' (2:122); 'O People of the Book' (3:64)). These are undoubtedly an address to both genders of various groups of people which remain the bedrock of the intended audience of the Quran.

There is no neuter gender in Arabic. 'Gender' is a function of language convention and not necessarily 'physiology'. For example, the feminine 'shams' in Arabic (sun) or the masculine 'qamar' (moon) are merely a function of language convention as understood by the Arabs where such genders are assigned.  In Arabic, masculine plurals can also be a reference to a group of both males and females.

When the addressee are specifically 'females', then yes, one can find examples of an indirect address.  However, some translators at times unnecessarily render words from a male-centric bias (when not required) such as in verse 43:70 where the literal translation would be "Enter paradise, you and your spouses delighted" as opposed to spouses being read as 'wives'. Spouses (azwajukum) is a masculine plural term and can include both men and women. I have discussed some unusual ‘aggressive translations’ in a separate article [2]. However, I do feel that most good translations capture the gist of the Arabic address correctly.

I hope that helps, God willing


[1] Was the Prophet of God Akin to a Postman Who Simply Delivers a Message?
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell