Dr Karen Bauer, Research Associate in the Qur’anic Studies Unit at the IIS, presented at the Seventh Biennial Conference on The Qur’an: Text, Society & Culture held at SOAS. Dr Bauer’s paper, entitled Women’s Testimony and the Re-Interpretability of the Qur’an, investigated a specific verse of the Qur’an, 2:282. According to Dr Bauer, this verse seems, at first glance, to be an unequivocal statement that two women should testify in the place of one man, and therefore that women’s testimony is not equal to that of men.
Her paper explored the discourse on women’s testimony in classical and modern commentaries and drew on interviews conducted by Dr Bauer in Iran and in Syria, and the texts of modern Egyptian thinkers, to speak about the modern discourse on whether women’s testimony equals that of men.
Dr Bauer explained that the central question for modern interpreters is whether the common interpretation of this verse had to do with the social circumstances at the time of the advent of the Qur’an, or something intrinsic to women’s nature that makes them ‘unable’ to testify in certain circumstances.
Those interpreters who take the latter stance maintain that women’s testimony is unequal to men’s in certain circumstances, but those advocating the former stance, that the verse was revealed due to the social circumstances at the time of the Qur’an’s advent, are open to reinterpreting the verse in the light of today’s societal norms. The paper touched on two of the central questions for today’s interpreters: the extent to which culture dictates interpretation and how one determines the limits of reinterpretation.
The conference series has a broad and interdisciplinary scope, bringing together papers representing a diverse range of areas and approaches within Qur’anic studies.
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