Excluding women from the world of writing blurs their history.. an Algerian opinion

The book: “The unwritten history of women.. A study on writing and gender in Arab culture”
Author: Fayrouz Rasham
Publisher Dar Fadaat for Publishing and Distribution, 2021

Why hasn’t the history of women been written yet? This is an introductory question with which the Algerian researcher and novelist Fairouz Rasham begins her book, and it is also pivotal as she is busy answering it, over a period of about two hundred pages, by investigating all the possible reasons for the absence of this history. Rasham initially assumes that there are two answers to this question. The first is that women do not have a history to write because they did not accomplish anything important, and did not leave innovations worth mentioning, which is an unlikely explanation, she says. The second is that women have a history, but they did not write it down, because they were far from writing, and the men focused on history for themselves, so their achievements were neglected and they were overlooked.

Resham points out that most of the world’s cultures are late in the historiography of their women, given that most human societies are ruled by the patriarchal system that imposed male dominance about 3500 years ago, according to what the historian “Gerda Lerner” suggests, which means that women lag behind men throughout these centuries, although they are active in History and contributed to its manufacture, but they were kept away from knowing their history and from interpreting history, whether it was their history or the history of men, as women were systematically excluded from the project of establishing symbolic systems, philosophies, science and law. The history of writing in the Arab culture was not much different from that, as it is a patriarchal history par excellence in which men chronicled men – with some exceptions – and women were excluded as a participant in making history, whether political, social, even literary and artistic.

In her book, Resham focuses on the history of women’s writing in Arab culture specifically, not the political or social history of women. It also goes beyond talking about oral heritage despite its importance, according to what she says, because it requires a different field of research and independent study. Considering that most of what men wrote about women generally fall within the fields of literature and jurisprudence, I focused on them to present their perception of women, especially since most of what women wrote falls within literature as well, and that the most difficult challenge I faced in writing was delving into jurisprudence due to the lack of their texts in it.

The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter includes three chapters. The first chapter is entitled Women’s History and Writing, in which it discusses the reasons why women’s history has not been written so far. And how to address women and their issues in gender studies and the related disciplines surrounding it, such as feminist studies and cultural studies. It examines the reasons for women’s delay in writing for a long time and the possibility of preventing them from doing so, and the image of women as enshrined in men’s writings since the beginning of blogging through literature books and ancient dictionaries. Then it moves in the second chapter to explore the reasons for women’s preference for writing in literature, based on the texts of the beginnings that appeared with the press and later developed to publish books in poetry and narration.

Considering that the woman’s body is the aspect on which men’s writings focused, the second topic of this chapter deals with the image of women in the books of the ancient Arab heritage, such as the books of Al-Nafzawi and Al-Suyuti and others, then the image of the female body in the writings of women that came in response to what the men wrote. In the third chapter, entitled “The Jurisprudence of Women as Written by Men,” Resham tries to understand the motives and backgrounds that made the jurists “antagonize women since the dawn of Islam,” which is mainly due to cultural reasons, according to what she says, where they tied her inside a physical and moral prison, impeding her movement and preventing her from participating in public life. By sinning her exit from her home. It stops at some common jurisprudence issues in women’s fatwas and rulings, and shows how most of the rulings related to women in jurisprudence books are patriarchal rulings dictated by culture and not divine rulings because they were not mentioned in the first legislative source, which is the Noble Qur’an, not even in the Prophetic Sunnah. As for the last chapter, it deals with The reasons for women’s reluctance to write about jurisprudence and the lack of their texts in it, with a return to their jurisprudence in the early centuries to their modern contributions that fall within the so-called Islamic feminism.

Cultural and legal excuses

Resham points out that studies concerned with women’s history in Arab and Islamic societies achieve three goals. The first is to draw the full and uncompromised picture of the nation’s history by interlacing women’s history with general history, and the second is to integrate social and cultural history with official political history, and the third is to critique modernity or at least reconstruct Considering its hypotheses, in particular with regard to the lives of women in Islamic societies. However, a project of this kind faces obstacles, the most important of which is the scarcity of written texts. Therefore, resorting to what women have verbally produced is an essential issue in writing their history, and it must be integrated with the written heritage. And be aware that the dating of some women will not necessarily be the history of all women. Historians focused only on the famous women, although history was made by the most ordinary anonymous women who represent the majority. Therefore, rewriting the history of women requires returning to their own lives with its negatives and positives.

Resham says that the old books refer to the names of hundreds of women with knowledge, but a research entitled “Women’s Authors and Their Writings in Islamic History” by the researcher Muhammad Khair Ramadan Youssef, found that the total number of women writers in Islamic history from the beginning of the era of composition until the end of 1200 AH (that is, the end of the 19th century AD ) It is only thirty-six compositions, if you exclude from them the commentators, memorizers and poets, none of them will remain. Resham assumes that women may have been prevented from writing or excluded from it in some way under cultural, jurisprudential or other pretexts.. She refers to texts and writings in Arab culture that are laws that prevent women from writing, including what was mentioned in the book “Subh Al-Asha” of Al-Qalaqshandi, when it is mentioned in Characteristics of the book that masculinity is a necessary quality for them and that women are not desirable in writing.

She adds: “This prohibition does not comply with the message of Islam, which made science the key to everything, nor with the Holy Qur’an, which commanded reading at the beginning of what was revealed… Women have always been intimidated from writing and pressured to leave it and stay away from it, whether in the past or in recent times.” Because of the exclusion of women from writing, Islamic jurisprudence arose from the beginning with a patriarchal logic, and came in response to the desires of men at the time, for the Qur’an does not oppress women, but rather masculine reading distorted the purposes of the text. Researchers unanimously agree that most of the hadiths attributed to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, that are hostile and insulting to women are forgery and liars, and some of them have been taken out of context and distorted their meaning, according to what Resham mentions, who adds that women’s jurisprudence composed by men, which is supposed to be a good knowledge of women and a deep understanding of them In fact, there is nothing but distorted information and perceptions that are far from reality. They are morally rejected and excluded from participating in all forms of thought and science.

There is no doubt that women participated alongside men in building Islamic sciences, especially in the early centuries of revelation, but they were gradually excluded from participating in it just because they were women and their role began to decline with the decline of Islamic civilization. Therefore, Muslims today know only some women from the era of prophecy, while They are ignorant of the thousands of female scholars who have emerged, which constitutes a huge void in the memory and history of Islamic civilization.

Resham remembers that the books of biographies and translations were concerned, since the early days of the blogging, by introducing some of the women of the Companions who were oral transmissions about them, especially with regard to the noble hadith, such as the book “Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabeer” by Ibn Saad. She also mentioned their participation in the writings of ancient scholars such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his book “Al-Isbah fi Tamazu Al-Sahaba” which mentioned the participation of more than five hundred women, especially the Sahaabi women who pledged allegiance during the period of revelation in the political construction of the city, and he is one of the few who wrote a book on the lives of a hundred Seventy famous women scientists in the eighth century AD, most of whom were specialists in the sciences of hadith, and he himself was a student of many of them.

There is no doubt that women participated alongside men in building Islamic sciences, especially in the early centuries of revelation, but they were gradually excluded from participating in it just because they were women and their role began to decline with the decline of Islamic civilization. Therefore, Muslims today know only some women from the era of prophecy, while They are ignorant of the thousands of female scholars who have emerged, which constitutes a huge void in the memory and history of Islamic civilization.

Under the title “Islamic feminism versus masculinity,” Resham explains that Islamic feminism emerged in the early nineties of the last century, when some Muslim women of different nationalities called for the modernization of religious discourse with a feminine reading of the Noble Qur’an and the Prophet’s hadith. Islamic feminism examines several issues, the most important of which is the issue of gender, or the cultural and social formation of both sexes, where it studies the differences between men and women from a socio-cultural perspective, not from a biological and psychological one, given that the legal and legal rights of women in Islam are fixed and no one disputes them, but the problem lies in Download these legal rulings and verses of equality on the ground, which witnesses grievances and a disregard for the rights guaranteed by Islamic law to women in education, work, building the land and joint jurisdiction. Resham adds that Islamic feminists are not satisfied with the performance of the jurists in women’s affairs, as there is a difference between the rights stated in the principles and what the sheikhs and clerics have acknowledged. They agree that it is the masculine jurisprudential readings that have taken the Holy Qur’an away from its noble human purposes to ones hostile to women.

Rasham concludes her book by emphasizing that her research on the background of women’s delayed writing act poses more problems than it answers, and that women’s entry into the world of writing is a sign of starting to think about themselves after men were thinking and deciding their place as if they were a mindless creature. But she also cautions that writing is not a masculine or feminine issue, and writing about and defending women should not be an exclusively feminist issue. What the culture of masculinity has not yet understood is that by delaying women from progress in life, it also delays the progress of men, and thus the progress of the entire society, according to Rasham.

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