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Monday Majlis: The Qurʾān and Its Masculine God: A Historical Feminist Analysis

A major pursuit of hermeneutic feminists is to modify the traditional understanding of the Qurʾān in order to present a pattern of gender equality, and consequently, enhance the status of women in Islam. While they emphasize the historical view and the non-selective approach to the Qurʾānic verses, they deviate from these assumptions in practice. In particular, when it comes to the supernatural realm of the Qurʾān, especially Allāh’s character, they portray it as devoid of sexism, repression, and discrimination.

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Zahra Mohaghegian is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Quranic Studies, and the Department Chair of Historical-Cultural Studies of the Quran at the Institution for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Tehran, Iran. In recent years, she has focused professionally on researching the historical gender issues in the Qurʾān and Islamic sources and has published various books and articles in this field. Her last book is “Sexuality and Sexual Symbolisms in the Qurʾān”, published by IHCS, a prestigious Iranian academic publisher, in 2021. The book focuses on the myth and sex/gender in the Qurʾān, which seeks to explore the motifs among the Qurʾānic verses and their resemblance with the ancient mythological narratives and the earlier scriptures. The article extracted from this book titled “Mother Earth in the Qurʾān” will soon be published as a chapter of the book “Sexuality in the Scriptures” by Oxford University Press. Zahra’s current project is “History of Idea Banāt Allāh (Daughters of Allah) from Classic to Modern Scholarships”, which is also followed from a female perspective. In light of these historical feminist studies, Zahra hopes to make a contribution, although small, to improving the status of Muslim women in today's modern societies.

In this presentation, I show that the God of the Qurʾān not only lacks a gender-free and universal nature but, due to the prevailing cultural context of the time, it has an all-masculine and even repressive image. To do so, I will focus on Qurʾānic verses concerning Allāh’s fight against the three goddesses, showing the process of their elimination and repression in the Qurʾān. The main questions are as follows: How has gender found its way into the supernatural realm of the Qurʾān? How are the goddesses addressed in the Qurʾān and how are they treated by Allāh? How does such a treatment relate to the development of the masculine system? I conclude that, without a proper analysis of the sexism within the supernatural realm of the Qurʾān, one cannot draw on its rulings and statements to deal with issues of gender justice.