Egyptian writer threatened for challenging holy bookBy Abir Sarras
Egyptian writer Bisnat Rashad has become the target of a fatwa and death threats after publishing her book "Sex in the Life of the Prophet Mohammed". Rashad wants to debunk the myth of Mohammed's extraordinary sexual powers, which she considers offensive to the Prophet and a bad example for Muslims.
Rashad, who calls herself a devout Muslim, faced harsh criticism from elders on a religious satellite television channel. They issued a fatwa declaring her an infidel and calling on the faithful to spill her blood, even if she were to recant her position. Rashad told Al Arabiya news channel that elders see her book as "a severe insult to the Prophet Mohammed and his wives". She claims to have received serious threats.
Religious leaders are infuriated by her criticism of Bukhari, a 9th century Islamic scholar and writer of the Islamic Hadith (pictured above) or oral tradition. Hadith, the second holiest Islamic scripture after the Qur'an, refers to the words and deeds of Mohammed. According to Rashad, Bukhari referred in his Hadith to the extraordinary sexual powers of the Prophet. However, Rashad believes this is a myth and says she wants to dispel Bukhari's suggestion that Mohammed was obsessed with sex and women:
"One of my goals was to motivate scholars to restudy the common myth of Mohammed's unusual sex life. From the example of Prophet Mohammed and his marital life, we are taught how men and women can have healthy sexual relationships."
Purging the scriptures
This is not the first time that scholars are challenged to revise the Hadith on sexual grounds. Islamic scholar Jamal Al Banna commented to Al Arabiya saying:
"I am appalled by some of Bukhari's Hadith, and I don't even believe some of them. In one Hadith the Prophet talks about kissing his wife Aisha and sucking her tongue ... another Hadith suggests that the Prophet Mohammed was gifted with the sexual stamina of 30 men."
According to Al Banna, Islamic scholars are already removing such unnecessary passages from the Hadith. A strong opponent of the fatwas issued against Rashad, Al Banna has called on governments to prohibit satellite television stations from providing extremists with a platform. However, Rashad and her book are facing serious and powerful detractors.
Al Azhar, the highest-ranking religious body in Sunni Islam, has called on the Egyptian authorities to ban the book and prosecute its author. Sheik Ali Abdel Baki, Secretary General of the Islamic Studies Council of Al Azhar, said that the book misrepresents the Prophet's sex life.
Shortly after the book was launched at the Cairo Book Fair last month, Egyptian MP Mustafa Al Jundi slammed the minister of culture for neglecting to safeguard Islamic values. Al Jundi said the book
"contains chapters on sex, desire, and mating that should not published in association with the name of the great Prophet Mohammed."
In her book's defence, Rashad issued a statement
"My book talks about sexual knowledge and education, issues that Islam considers important, to preserve the human race ... but they are also issues wrongfully handled by our culture ... and there are no correct and sound explanations available, which turns the topic of sex and women into a taboo".
According to Rashad, women's disadvantageous position in Arab society stems from a sick mentality that "kills women in public, while it desires them in secret".
Tags: Bisnat Rashad, Bukhari, Egyptian, fatwa, Hadith