In his home office in Bab al-Shaariya, the late Gamal al-Banna always had his door open to curious guests seeking personal interaction with the controversial writer, whose works branded him an apostate in the eyes of many Muslims.
With his soft-spoken voice, he often engaged in lengthy discussions with visitors about Muslim thought. At times, he would walk up to one of the many bookshelves in his apartment and suddenly pull out a text he thought was a must-read.Despite his advanced age, his concentration rarely failed him in such conversations.
Last week, Banna died at the age of 92, leaving behind a controversial legacy. For some, he will be commemorated as a high-profile Muslim reformer. For many, he will remain dismissed as a pretentious, malicious writer who sought to undermine the fundamentals of the Muslim faith.(...)
A feminist at heart
Womens issues constituted one of the pillars of Bannas work. He dedicated at least two of his books to emancipating Muslim women and girls, and challenging religious dogmas that tightened mens grip over womens bodies and minds.
In his oeuvre, “The Muslim Woman between the Emancipation of the Quran and Jurist-made Constraints,” Banna drops a plethora of bombshells by arguing that the Quran neither obliges women to wear the hijab nor denies them the right to run for the highest posts, including the presidency.
To substantiate his propositions, Banna had engaged with the verses and the Prophets sayings that were put forward by Muslim jurists to prove that women should cover up, and to disqualify them for leading positions. The late author had offered a different interpretation of the verse on the hijab, and refuted the authenticity of the Prophets saying that asks women to conceal all body parts expect their faces.(...)
Flexible Quran and fabricated Sunna
In his works, Banna also refuted the canonical rule of naskh employed in interpreting the Quran. According to this rule, some early Quranic verses were abrogated by other verses that were revealed to Prophet Mohamed later on. By virtue of this rule, mainstream scholars hold that verses about jihad and war against non-Muslims overrule others promoting tolerance.(...)