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Saturday, April 23, 2016
Ruqayya Khan, fake scholar, once published an essay "Did a Woman Edit the Qur’an? Ḥafṣa and her Famed Codex" in Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82.1 (March 2014), 174-216.
by focusing upon the role of one early Muslim female figure, Ḥafṣa bint ‘Umar (one of the wives of the prophet Muhammad), in how the Qur’än came to be codified, I critique the androcentric tendencies in western Qur’änic studies’ scholarship. I also seek to reclaim Ḥafṣa’s agency in the process of how the Qur’än came to be formed as a text.
Guillaume Dye is too polite to dump on this jargon-filled and a priori piece directly; he might not even have read it. He does offer a short answer to the overall question - "LOL, no". Well okay; it is not a short answer, because it's Dye saying it:
Now back to Khan...
Khan assumes that Ḥafṣa had a codex. She addresses the "linking device" at p. 203 - from Burton and Wansbrough; to dismiss it. But not on its merits: instead, she implies that they were just being sexist, "denying agency" to her heroine. Khan lives in a world of fantasy, in a university Safe Space.
Khan's essay does contain some real content - once the reader has assumed its assumption, that Ḥafṣa had a codex. Still, the essay holds interest mainly as an political matter internal among Muslims. Since scholars of Islam as a matter of basic ethics cannot assume the Ḥafṣa topos, they have taken some unnecessary risks in bringing Khan's work to publication. I for one would have put some large red marks on the text.
Earlier I'd considered a broadside against everything that Khan's project even touched, all the way to Oxford University itself. But now I've read Madelung's offhand comment about the survival of Arab matriarchy in the Prophet's succession... so I am today less sure of the invalidity of a feminist approach to Islamic history than I was - say - yesterday morning. Although Khan's particular approach remains, in several places, odious.
Khan did need to assume the topos, to explain why that topos - why Ḥafṣa and not, say, Usama bin Zayd or Khalid bin al-Walid. But her editors needed to insist to her that this is a topos. They needed to hold the line. They failed, and by it they failed their mission.
UPDATE 12/5/2016: see - soon - Sean Anthony and Catherine Bronson, “Did Ḥafṣah bint ʿUmar Edit the Qurʾan? A Response with Notes on the Codices of the Prophet’s Wives”, Journal of the International Qurʾanic Studies Association 1 (2016) on
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