Honour Killings in Muslim Societies: the Role of Patriarchal Hadith
By Adis Duderija, New Age Islam
27 January, 2014
In accordance with best (academic) practices I shall start this article with some necessary ‘self-positioning’. I am a practicing Muslim of Bosnian ethnicity and an academic on issues pertaining to contemporary interpretation of Islam with specific focus on gender issues, currently a Visiting Senior Lecturer at the University of Malaya. I am also a father to two children one of which is a 5 year old girl. In what I write below should be understood as a plea for understanding and as an expression of genuine voice of concern both as a father and as a practicing Muslim.
A number of scholars such as F. Sabbah, F. Mernissi and Kh. Abou El Fadl to name but the most prominent few have discussed what the classical Islamic tradition considers to be an organic conceptual link between the categories of active and for the believing Muslim men potentially disastrous ( both in salvific and this worldly fortunes) female sexuality and the concept of socio-moral chaos ( Fitna) caused by the very presence ( or even a smell) of a woman in the public sphere.
According to this view of the nature of male and female sexuality, women, as a conceptual category, are identified with the “irreligious” realm of sexual passion, as repositories of all “lower” aspects of human nature, the very anti- thesis of “illuminated” sphere of male (religious) knowledge, in which the sole source of religious authority resides. Based on this active concept of female sexuality classical Islamic tradition has put in place a number of mechanisms to regulate this omnisexual female sexual instinct by “external precautionary safeguards” such as seclusion and veiling of women, gender segregation, and women’s constant surveillance. In the words of El- Fadl “women are seen as walking, breathing bundles of Fitna” and womanhood is artificially constructed into the embodiment of seduction. In turn, male honour is constructed exclusively in terms of (extreme) forms of sexual jealousy (Ghairah) and (extreme) conceptualizations of women’s modesty as for example based on the nine parts of desire Hadith that is accepted by both classical Sunnism and Shi’ism on the basis of which gender segregation, public invisibility of women and their constant surveillance are upheld as the religious ideal.