Overall I thought that Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed was very informative, especially the historical parts of the book, though, as others h...moreOverall I thought that Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed was very informative, especially the historical parts of the book, though, as others have mentioned too, the contemporary part is very compact and highly favouring the conditions in Egypt.
Ahmed begins with an account of the conditions women lived under in pre-Islamic societies, the changes that the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) brought in and the conditions through the first Islamic societies and up through the centuries. As the historical material for this historic part is highly limited, we are able to learn about Muslim womens condition throughout the Muslim sphere, and not just in a specifical geographical location.
All of this changes in the second part, where Ahmed almost solely focuses on the conditions of Muslim women in Egypt. Though this is a very interesting topic, I personally would've liked to hear more from other Muslim countries as well, though I am sure that parallels can be drawn, I do believe that there must also be some major differences. Furthermore, the second part is very compact, with so much information that she could easily have written an entire book on Muslim women's conditions in Egypt in modern times. (less)
This week I finished reading The Red Tentby Anita Diamant, a wonderful retelling of the Biblical story of Dinah - but in a way the story has never bee...moreThis week I finished reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, a wonderful retelling of the Biblical story of Dinah - but in a way the story has never been told before.
From the Prologue:
We have been lost to each other for so long.
My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.
This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father, Jacob, and the celebrated chronicle of Joseph, my brother. On those rare occasions when I was remembered, it was as a victim. Near the beginning of your holy book, there is a passage that seems to say I was raped and continues with the bloody tale of how my honor was avenged.
It's a wonder that any mother ever called a daughter Dinah again. But some did. Maybe you guessed that there was more to me than the voiceless cipher in the text. Maybe you heard it in the music of my name: the first vowel high and clear, as when a mother calls to her child at dusk; the second sound soft, for whispering secrets on pillows. Deenah.
No one recalled my skill as a midwife, or the songs I sang, or the bread I baked for my insatiable brothers. Nothing remained except a few mangled details about those weeks in Shechem.
There was far more to tell. Had I been asked to speak of it, I would have begun with the story of the generation that raised me, which is the only place to begin. If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter.
So many of my favourite bloggers recommended this book, and I am so happy I finally picked it up. It is a beautiful story - although sad and heartbreaking at times. I love how the author rewrites the story of Dinah, taking back the story and turning it into a powerful story of womanhood in ancient times.
It is also a story that is subtly sceptical of the Biblical god, while revering the women's fertility gods of old:
"The god of my fathers is a merciful god," Jacob said. But when Zilpah heard the story from her sons, she said, "What kind of mercy is that, to scare the spit dry in poor Isaac's mouth? Your father's god may be great, but he is cruel."
Leah spoke next. "Zilpah, we are your protection, Your family, your sisters, are the only surety against hunger, against cold, against madness. Sometimes I wonder if the gods are dreams and stories to while away cold nights and dark thoughts." Leah grabbed her sister by the shoulders. "Better to put your trust in my hands and Jacob's than in stories made out of wind and fear."
If you have any interest in stories from the past, or in strong women, I greatly recommend this novel.
Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies. It is the same for people who are loved. Thus can something as insignificant as a name - two syllables, one high, one sweet - summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sighs and dreams of a human life.