"BELIEVING WOMEN" IN ISLAM: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an

Asma Barlas, Author . Univ. of Texas $50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-292-70903-4

Barlas, associate professor and chair of politics at Ithaca College, offers a comprehensive revisionist treatment of how the Qur'an actually views women—as equal and even superior to men. Persuaded that Islam is a religion of egalitarianism, Barlas is equally clear that misogyny and patriarchy have seeped into Islamic practice through "traditions": the sunna, or the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam; the hadiths, or sayings attributed to Muhammad; and the shariah, or law derived from the Qur'an. Barlas argues that a military-scholarly complex manipulated the Qur'an to establish these traditions in a successful effort to preserve the position of the military rulers and clerics of early Islamic history—with women's status being the victim. Some flawed traditions, along with mistranslations, ingrained patriarchy into Qur'anic interpretation, in spite of obvious Qur'anic injunctions to the contrary. Barlas's thesis is irresistible: the Qur'an itself has a very positive view of women whereas patriarchal culture caused the various interpreters of the Qur'an to read their own biases into the text to justify the oppression of women. Barlas quotes from a smorgasbord of Islamic scholars, resulting at times in a choppy read that drowns out her own more appealing voice. The opening chapter is bogged down in such quoting, and also in excessive worrying over her critics on either side of the debate. Despite these flaws, this book is loaded with interesting facts about Islam that may even surprise Muslims. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-292-70904-1
Open Ebook - 978-0-292-78288-4
Ebook - 273 pages - 978-0-292-79667-6
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