Gender-specific Language:
Ibn Hazm on masculine imperatives.

Rough translation for teaching purposes by David Vishanoff from Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam (8 vols. in 2, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, n.d.), 1:344-346.  This edition omits a crucial paragraph, which has been supplied from dictation by Hamid Lahmar in 1999 (from either the edition of Ihsan `Abbas or that of Ahmad Shakir, I believe).

Section:  When Commands Occur with the verbal form of address to males.

`Ali [Ibn Hazm] said:  People disagree:

One group says:  If a command occurs in the form of address to males, it applies to males and not females, unless there is some evidence that it includes females.  They prove this by saying:  For every meaning there is a verbal form that expresses it.  The [form of] address to women is if`alna (do! feminine plural); the [form of] address to men is if`alu (do! masculine plural).  There is no way to make a verbal form apply to something other than what it pertains to, except by some evidence.

Another group holds that address to women and females does not include males, but that address to males does include women and females unless some clear text (nass) or consensus excludes women and females from it.  [This paragraph is missing in the Beirut edition.]

`Ali said:  This is [the view] we accept; no other [view] is possible.

The evidence that the first group relies upon is the greatest proof against them, and it is our evidence for refuting their view.  For every meaning there is a verbal form by which it is expressed, as they say; this must be so.  There is no disagreement among the Arabs or those who know their language, from the first of them to the last [?], that when men and women - males and females - are together and are addressed or spoken about, the address and the statement occur in the form of an address to or a statement about males alone; there is no difference, and this is always so.  Hence /345/ address to males in particular has no basic verbal form in the Arabic language, other than the verbal form that refers to them and women together, unless there is some additional clarification that only men and not women are meant.  If this is so, then one may not apply an address to only part of what it entails, without some clear text or consensus.  If the verbal form if`alu (do! masculine plural), and the [masculine] plural form [ending] in waw (u) and nun (n), and broken plurals, apply to males and females together; and if the Prophet of God (God's prayers and peace be upon him) was sent similarly to both men and women; and if the speech of God (may he be exalted) and the speech of his Prophet (God's prayers and peace be upon him) to men and women was a single speech - then none of this can be particular to men and not women, unless there is a plain text or a consensus, because that would be to particularize the apparent meaning, which is not allowed.  Everything that follows from [the views of] the upholders of particularity [i.e. those who say general expressions should be interpreted as particular by default] follows from [the views of] those [who say masculine address applies only to males]; this will be dealt with fully in its chapter, if God wills.

If they say:  Then make jihad obligatory for women!  Then say to them (and it is God who grants success):  Were it not for the Prophet's saying to `A'isha, when she asked permission for jihad, "for you (feminine plural) the best jihad is a pilgrimage you have vowed to make" [?], the jihad would be a requirement for them.  But from this hadith we learn that jihad is only recommended and not obligatory for women, for he (upon him be peace) did not forbid her, but he informed here that pilgrimage is better for them (fem.).  What we say is made clear by the fact that `A'isha - whose [use of] language is definitive - when she heard the command to perform jihad, thought that women were included in that obligation until the Prophet explained to her that it was recommended and not obligatory for them (fem.), and that pilgrimage was better than it for them (fem.).  We do not deny that a verbal form can be turned away from its linguistic denotation by the evidence of a text or consensus, or by a natural necessity that indicates that it is turned away from its denotation; we only refute the claim of those who claim that a verbal form is turned away from its linguistic denotation without evidence.  The Prophet did not contradict [`A'isha's] interpretation of the speech [about jihad] in the form of address to males as generally including women.  That is sufficient [proof] for those who understand.

If they say:  Then make it obligatory for them (fem.) to all hasten to gain religious knowledge [fiqh], and to command the good and prohibit evil!  Then we say (and it is God who grants success):  Yes!   This is obligatory for them (fem.) just as it is obligatory for men.  It is obligatory for every woman to seek legal knowledge about everything that pertains to her, just as that is obligatory for men.  For those of them (fem.) who have wealth it is obligatory to know the rules about the alms tax; it is obligatory for all of them (fem.) to know the rules about purity and prayer and fasting, and what food and drink and clothing and other things are permitted and which are forbidden, /346/ just like men - there is no difference.  And if a woman gains knowledge of the religious sciences, we must recognize her excellence.  This has happened; they include the wives of the Prophet (God's prayers and peace be upon him) and his Companions (fem.); from them are transmitted religious rulings, and proofs rest upon their transmission.  There is no disagreement about this among the adherents of our [school] or any of the people of our creed.  Among them, in addition to his wives (upon him be peace), are Umm Sulaym, Umm Harram, Umm `Atiya, Umm Karaz, Umm Shurayk, Umm al-Darda', Umm Khalid, Asma' bint Abi Bakr, Fatima bint Qays, Yusra, and others.  Among the following [generation] are `Umra, Umm al-Hasan, al-Rabab, Fatima bint al-Munadhdhir, Hind al-Farasiyya, Habiba bint Maysara, Hafsa bint Sirin, and others.  [The vowelling of names has not been verified.]  And not one of the Muslims, without exception, disagrees about their (fem.) being addressed by His words (may he be exalted) "perform the prayer and give the alms tax," and "let those of you who witness the month fast it," [...] and the rest of the Qur'an's commands.  Those who have resorted to such a last resort [as claiming that masculine imperative apply only to men] did so only for the sake of one or two legal questions on which they ruled arbitrarily and followed others' opinions, when they were forced to ignore the obvious and claim that women were excluded from some address without any evidence; but then they shamelessly and wantonly returned to including them with men [in other legal questions].

[The discussion continues to p. 350.]

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