Constitution Authorizes Presidency of Women

Yas-e-no, Daily Newspaper
Vol. 1, No. 137, Aug. 19th, 2003, Page 6

Islamologist and professor of Islamic history at Tarbiat-e-Modarres (teachers training) University, Sadeq Ayinehvand says women can run for presidency according to the Constitution. He refers to misinterpretations of some Islamic regulations leading to discriminatory looks at men and women. The following is a full text of the interview Yas-e-no conducted with him.

Q: How do Islam and Quran look at creation and evolution of men and women? Does Islam view men and women equally or mete out discriminatory look at them? A: The Islamic religion views men and women equally and it considers no gender discrimination. According to Islam, the Creator has created everything in pair and the human beings (males and females) intermarry to reach tranquility. Despite Greek, Mesopotamian, Roman and Byzantine discriminatory views of males and females, Islam considers both at the same level and sets its criteria on science and piety.

Q: So what do you think about certain traditions and interpretations in Islamic books focusing on differences in creation of males and females? A: The Islamic religion is free of such undocumented and inaccurate traditions and interpretations. Nouveau riches whose piety and Islamism one may cast doubt on raise such allegations. We do not recognize the undocumented traditions and interpretations adopted from the Old and the New Testaments and we consider them null and void. I would appreciate anybody who can provide me with documented and strong traditions bearing proof to discrimination between creation of men and women. Islam recognizes men and women with their behaviors. Coptic and Magi cults have sought to approach Islam by modeling on Iran's religion.

Q: What do you think about their rights? You maintain that men and women have been created and evolved equally and there is no difference between them. So is it possible to entitle them to different rights or consider women mentally deranged? A: What I told you in response to your first questions must have justified you not to ask this question. Regarding the alleged mental derangement in women I have tried in vain to find any justification in Islamic books. Unfortunately, Nahjol Balagheh, a collection of Imam Ali's sermons and written by a skilful (and misogynous) scholar Sharif Razi, is misconstrued by extremists. The temporal conditions are not taken into account and Sharif Razi must have incorporated ethnic considerations. Imam Ali (AS), the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad (S), must have not noted any discrimination and inequality between men and women. That is the case while other Shiite books quote Imam Ali as saying that the women incorporate the best well wishes. I swear by God, the Almighty, that men and women were created equally. But inheritance and similar issues lie within legal framework and we cannot discuss them here.

Q: Iran's decision to sign an international convention prohibiting discrimination against women has become a talking point in our country. The issue drew condemnation from certain circles who even staged demonstrations. The (top constitutional watchdog) Guardian Council shot down a parliamentary piece of legislation on Iran's entry to the convention as anti-Islamic. What do you think about the bill? Does it contravene the Islamic values?
A: To find out how such issues have emerged in Islam, we should go through Islamic criteria and not interpretations of Islam. To this effect, we may hit interesting points. After Quran, we base our standards on Islamic mores and customs. The more we focus on the issue, the stronger and more transparent our interpretations will be. Any religion has another dimension known as "religious literature". Such literature is sometimes so strong that it overshadows the religion and even serves as the criteria for the religion. For instance, the Sunnis celebrate the birthday of Prophet Mohammad for two months and it indicates their religious ideals. On the other hand, Shiites hold rowdy celebrations to honor the demise of Prophet Mohammad and martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) -- the son of Imam Ali.
Here I do not intend to base my words on such traditions and I speak from an ideological point of view. Such affairs may sometimes turn to symbols. For example Ashura celebrations have become a symbol of Shiites.
Our elite should sit down and scrutinize everything to head off any misinterpretation of Islam. I note here that the Shiites of the third century describe the Shiites of the first century as tolerant while the latter consider the former as extremist.
Q: A question may arise here. Did the Shiites of the third century have not access to what their predecessors had?
A: Quran and traditions have not changed and everything is attributed to the religious literature I mentioned earlier. Kings and courtiers might have tabooed segments of the religion they did not desire. It is important to note that whatever I mention here is related to the entirety of Islam and does hinge on Shiites. Ancient caliphs considered themselves above the prophets of God and that was why independent jurisprudents like Shafei and Abu-Hanifeh did not have any companionship with them. It gave rise to disputes between caliphs and independent jurisprudents. Abu-Hanifeh was flogged and others were sidelined. So you can understand that expediencies of rulership had nothing to do with the essence of Islam and the caliphs intended to interpret Islam to suit their tastes.

When the Abbasid took power they had won legitimacy from Prophet Mohammad. That was when an old notion resurfaced and the situation stepped back to the age of ignorance. During the period of ignorance, uncles and not the daughters replaced fathers who died. So Abbas and not Hadhrat Fatima should have been installed at the head of Qoraish Tribe. Tension was simmering. That was when a male-oriented interpretation of Islam emerged because it benefited the caliphs. Ignorance reached such point that daughters were barred from any inheritance and they were even considered to be promoters of "bad luck". Iranian, Byzantine, Roman, Coptic and Mesopotamian views have found their ways into the world of Islam. Mesopotamians drew a parallel between women and scorpions. On the other hand, the hermits and those who live in seclusion classify women in the category of mundane passions. Poets and preachers of political fields also belittled women at that time. Whatever I said was a collection of the views of Abbasid and Umayid periods. Now can we say that none of such beliefs have penetrated into our religious beliefs under disguise? I appreciate the scholars and researchers who lifted their sleeves and sought to save Islam from ignorance. I expected the sympathetic researchers to launch a fresh movement but the political specter looming on the country thwarts any attempt.

Q: What is your assessment of women's participation?
A: Presence of women in social affairs differs in Islamic and non-Islamic nations. Under the reign of Prophet Mohammad and Imam Ali, the women were significantly present in the society. In the heydays of Islamic civilizations and the period of science in Islamic world, we see women who contributed to productive activities in political, arts and scientific fields.
Regression of women is linked to the homogenous performance of establishments in Islamic territories. Today, presence of women has been recognized as an ideal and everyone has to admit such a fact. Presence of women and freethinking indicates the reasonability of the society.

Q: How do our religious texts assess presence of women?
A: As long as I know of the history of imams, I reiterate that "Islamic criteria" and "Islamic tradition" do not lay out any restrictions for women. Relying on Islam, I restate the fact that establishments can continue to exist if they center on fateful presence of women in social management scenes. The families should not be considered as obstacles to presence of women in social and political affairs. We will witness no development and no self-motivated social cooperation if women do not occupy one-third of parliamentary seats, one-third of government seats and one-fifth of judicial seats. An imam has attributed the good to women.
Q: As the last question I want to know if women can run for president.
A: The world "rejal" (literally meaning men) evoked in the Constitution does not necessarily strip women of the right to seek presidency. We have many Quranic verses urging both men and women to do something without exactly bringing a word for women. (In Arab language, masculine and feminine are distinguished in writing and speaking.) According to Iranian Constitution, both men and women can run for president and no restrictions have been defined for them.
Q: Thank you a lot!
A: You are welcome.

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