Sofia's Reviews > "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an

"Believing Women" in Islam by Asma Barlas
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it was amazing
bookshelves: islam, books-i-recommend
Read 2 times. Last read January 20, 2019 to February 10, 2019.

Asma Barlas finishes this book with a Post Script stating, "my objective in writing this book was to recover the scriptural basis of sexual equality in Islam and thereby to defend Islam against the claim, made by both Muslim conservatives and feminists, that it is a religious patriarchy that professes models of hierarchical relationships and sexual inequality". Without doubt she has truly met this objective academically, it's up to the people to realise this objective practically.

I myself am a Muslim woman who has been trained in traditional Islam and as such, her analysis of what she terms "Muslim conservative" positions and her deconstruction of these really struck me. These are not superficial arguments, but deeply constructed and rigorously authenticated by the Quran itself. To say it is a valiant piece of work is an understatement. I enjoyed how she dealt with the other end of the critical spectrum too, by challenging the accusations of (Western) feminists. She's not in this for making friends!

Just recently I had an exchange with a young Imam (Muslim leader) on the issue of domestic violence in the Muslim community. He had written a paper on the matter and I had been quite critical as I felt he missed the point. She covers marital issues in her book and analysis the Quranic verse that some have highlighted as a facilitator for DV against women. Her analysis was so much more superior and well thought through. Not only that but her approach is one that is holistic, taking the Quran in its entirety, not just piecemeal, isolated verse by isolated verse. This is crucial in the need to shift whole attitudes and understandings.

I think if anyone gives this less than five (maybe 4) stars, it's probably because they haven't been able to push through the highly academic vocabulary and the immensely scholastic approach she takes (This is no light read), or because the patriarchal readings and commentaries of the Quran have become so internalised that the reader is not yet ready to entertain her writings. If your aversion is due to the former I would urge you to soldier through it, what you get out of the book will be much more than what you put in. If it's because of the latter, I'd recommend you continue to read around and to allow observations of the world around you to let you make good sense of what she has written.

I had so many "mind blown" moments with this book and would highly recommend it. If you have ever wondered about women in Islam as an insider or outsider, this book is for you.
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Reading Progress

September 7, 2014 – Shelved
September 7, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
September 22, 2014 – Started Reading
September 22, 2014 –
page 10
3.68% "Excellent read so far. More academic in language and so a little less accessible than Amina Wadud's Quran and Woman, but worth the labour so far. Struck by her argument for contextualisation; in the absence of such an endeavour the Quran would be confined to a scripture that was "egalitarian only by the standards of a seventh-century society and is irredeemably oppressive by ours". Interesting and thought provoking."
September 24, 2014 –
page 45
September 26, 2014 –
page 60
September 27, 2014 –
page 93
34.19% ""Interpretations that become canonised as knowledge, to be passed down through generations, are. Those that are conducive to the maintenance of power in the institutions which produced them""
September 28, 2014 –
page 129
September 30, 2014 –
page 165
60.66% "I love how she addresses the "conservative" Muslim stances and interpretations of the Quran but at the same time reproaches feminist readings too, thus culminating in an authentically middle way."
September 30, 2014 – Finished Reading
October 9, 2014 – Shelved as: islam
November 14, 2014 – Shelved as: books-i-recommend
January 20, 2019 – Started Reading
February 10, 2019 – Finished Reading

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