Special for International Women’s Month
This is the conclusion of Dr. Riffat Hassan’s extraordinary feminist lecture on the story of Adam and Eve, a story that forms the basis for the oppression of women in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Plus my interview with her about her radical re-interpretation of the significance of Eve’s acceptance of the apple.
Dr. Riffat Hassan is a Muslim theologian from Pakistan who opposes the Islamic view of the inferiority of women. She says that since anti women legislation and custom are enacted in the name of theology, it is necessary to study the Koran and critique the source.
In the original text, says Hassan, women are neither inferior nor sinful. Adam is not a man’s name – it is the word for human. In fact in the Koran the original being created by god is feminine, a fact that is concealed in all translations.
Riffat Hassan says the original meaning was altered by later writings, the so-called Hadiths. These are quotes attributed to the prophet Mohammed and passed on by people who say they heard him tell the story. And it is here – and only here, in the Hadiths that the story of creation of woman from Adam’s rib is told six times. The Hadiths say that woman is secondary because she was made of Adam’s rib and sinful since she is responsible for the expulsion from paradise.
Riffat Hassan was Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She received her PhD from Durham University, UK, in 1968 and has taught in many institutions, including Oklahoma State University and Harvard Divinity School.
Riffat Hassan has since retired after 33 years of teaching in the US. She gave courses not only in theology but also in literary criticism, Shakespeare, Romantic Poets, international relations and foreign policy. However through all her academic accomplishments and to this day she was and is a human rights activist on behalf of women.