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Ndola Owuo-Hagood and the new generation of
conscious female Islamic researchers. By Mansour Ansari
In these times of increased scrutiny on our Islamic community both at home and abroad, it is even more
courageous for one of our own to set a high academic goal, focus on its importance, and set about reaching heights our previous generations could only dream about. What is it that makes a person able to balance family, babies, geographical sprinting and countless other life challenges and yet focus on a Masters degree in a sensitive Islamic subject with patience, erudition and GSU style?
Enter our own Ndola Owuo-Hagood. The daughter and niece of a prominent American Muslim family, a family which placed such emphasis on their African connections which naturally led to the embrace of the Islamic faith over some decades. A daughter who herself accepted the supremacy of Almighty Allah and the Islamic faith some 14 years ago and made education among life's most important pursuits. After all, she saw her mother open a school here in Atlanta when she was 5 and, after moving to Senegal, West Africa, her mother opened a second school.
With such a background in the essential-ness of education, it was clear that she understood that the engine behind communal goals, milestones and accomplishments is run by individual goals, milestones and accomplishments. As this writer ages (some would say marinates), such communal goals, milestones and accomplishments take on a heavier and increased meaning and importance. My own daughters had their elementary education there in Atlanta's historic West End and, like my older daughter Zaynab, Sr Ndola married an accomplished young man from that community as well. In Ndola's case, Br Ayyub, the son of Abu Shaka Abdush-Shakur and Nalonga Abdur-Rahman has been a husband and father who has paved the way for his wife Ndola to make her educational pursuits a reality. We thank Allah for all concerned and share the pride felt by Ndola's noble parents Jaliwa Owuo and our brother Mikell Hagood.
But don't let me get caught in a sentimental mood, I tend to get misty, as helpless as a kitten up a tree when it comes to these areas of life.
Ndola's recent Masters thesis is entitled 'A Hermeneutical Examination of Creation in Islam at Georgia State University' in the Department of Religious Studies. The subject matter, according to any Islamic standards, is a massive one: looking at the connection (or lack thereof) between the Divine writ, the Qur'an, and the corpus of work and literature known as the ahadith and the Sunnah of the Blessed Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. The most significant scholars of the entire Islamic paradigm have studied their entire lives and have produced oceans of volumes of work on this very subject.
Mrs Owuo-Hagood approached this subject in a challengingly modern way by focusing on five contemporary scholars who have obviously thought about these subjects day and night for long periods. Any Muslim over four years old has, needless to say, had the discussion about Qur'an and Hadith and Sunnah and had to deal one way or the other as to their connectedness (or lack thereof). After all, the saying among many is that we tend to disagree with each other on the understandings and applicabilities of the body of ahadith in our lives, especially in 21st Century America. And wouldn't it just be easier to follow the Qur'an on which we all agree and leave the ahadith? We've all had such a discussion at one point or another.
But the five scholars chosen for her research, Riffat Hassan, Azizah Al-Hibri, Barbara Freyer Stowasser, Amina Wadud and GF Haddad proved to be well-chosen to make her ultimate point that the connection is not only there but necessarily so. To leave the hadith out of the discussion would make us all quite misty, not knowing our right from our left or our hat from our glove. This writer has for decades accepted this reality of the connectedness of the Qur'an and Hadith and Sunnah out of respect for the previous generations of scholarship on the subject. When I've looked over the depth of the work on this subject it would have slowed me down in so many other areas of development that acceptance translates into acceleration in so many areas. Many of our brethren who have gotten bogged down in this area become so slow that, when their depression finally set in, they were so slow that they threw themselves BEHIND a train!
To summarize, with the exception of GF Haddad, a fellow Lebanese convert to Islam from a well-known Christian Lebanese family, the other four (all females, by the way), have developed a body of research over the years which purport, and rightly so, that after the normative period of Islamic history (some say 200, others say up to 400 years after the Hijrah), Muslims developed a male-dominated and male-centered paradigm within the Islamic ethos and tried to make it part and parcel of Islam itself and this caused the Ummah to move away from the egalitarianism and equality which made Islam great and important in the world.
Their prognosis, however, was to disconnect the body of ahadith and Sunnah from the primary source of Islam, the Qur'an, so that disagreements would disappear and male oppression of women would come out into the light of day and be seen for the unislamic phenomenon that it is. Such questions were raised in their research which, to the everyday Muslim, made us late for the ship of life departing from the dock. Was Adam created first or was it Eve? After all, each person comes from a woman. Was Eve really made from an upper rib of Adam? And, if so, does that mean that women are created FOR men? There are rudimentary questions of creation raised by these scholars. From where does the male chauvinism come? If these items could be examined and re-assessed, would it solve today's problem? All legitimate and noteworthy.
In Ndola Owuo-Hagood's conclusion, she relies on the sound scholarship of GF Haddad who, with a caring and humble hand, puts to rest any unbalanced gender-driven understandings of the subject of creation in Islam puts the blame rightfully on humans and not the Islamic sources be they the Qur'an, the body of ahadith and the Sunnah. Her enlightened research can be legitimately considered breakthrough work and we look forward to her continued endeavors (like a PhD).
Owuo-Hagood, Ndola M'Balia, "A Hermeneutical Examination Of Creation In Islam At Georgia State University" (2010). Religious Studies Theses. Paper 26.
Master of Arts (MA)
Kathryn McClymond - Committee Chair
Ian Almond - Committee Member
Lou Ruprecht - Committee Member