How should we read the Quran’s ‘woman’?

When reading an ancient engrossing text with concentration you almost feel the atmosphere around you changing. You are transported to another textual land where words have completely different meanings and connotations. Take the word ‘woman’ for example, let’s think about the associations of this word in what is now Saudi Arabia 1400 years ago. She is usually a housewife, she is not likely to be in possession of property, and if she is, her father, brother, or husband manages it. She abides by very strict dress and conduct codes in public. The positions of what are now president, minister, and governor are forbidden for her. If she happens to be a lesbian, the faintest idea of living with a female partner is not even inside the realm of discussion. Now let’s contemplate what the word ‘woman’ means and connotes in modern day Sweden. She is usually a working individual. She is likely to own and manage property. She dresses and acts publicly as she pleases enjoying the same rights men do. She is a president, a minister, and a governor. She lives with her female partner to whom she is legally married. Is it the same word? No, it is a completely different articulation in (a) completely different discourse(s).

‘Woman’ is one term out of thousands, all of which have transformed or acquired new meanings and connotations. Islam was sent 1400 years ago with a Quranic discourse for people living in a different time at a different place. Similar to most religions, Islam has stipulations for every major aspect of life, and fatwas for every single minutia of every single detail of it.

When reading the Quran, which discourse(s) should we apply to understand the words? Modern Saudi Arabia’s discourses or modern Sweden’s?

Applying modern discourses to the Quran will result in a new understanding of the text, an understanding that – coupled with a critical interpretation (mind overruling illogical and obsolete pieces of text) – can rebirth the Quran to the earthlings of now. The Quran will be more open to personal readings, Islamists and “men of God” will lose much of their dominance over the population. While reading this, some Muslims will become furious thinking I seek to infect Islam with a virus in order to collapse it. I urge those Muslims to look at where ancient readings have delivered them, shackled to the fundamentalists’ ground with a mind encumbered by a heavy weight of myths and metaphysical nonsense.

‘Woman’ has changed, she’s leading teams of geologists in search of dinosaur fossils, she’s manufacturing pills in the lab, she’s observing and taking notes of what happens when two subatomic particles collide, she’s leading the prideful German nation, on the stage, she shines, with an instrument, with her voice, or on pointes. ‘Woman’ is not the conservatively clad shepherdess anymore.


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