Jaine's Reviews > Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective

Qur'an and Woman by Amina Wadud
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it was amazing

What I appreciate most about Wadud's approach is that it implies that interpreting meaning and arriving at justifications for religious practice/belief has a lot to do with whether or not:

1. a person has strong reading skills.
2. a person applies a set of particular biases to a text in a way that obscures its context, meaning, and intended application.
3. a person is able to navigate whatever relationship there might be between human knowledge and divine knowledge...because there's a gap between the two.

I don't think Wadud's book is necessarily meant to defend or critique the Qur'an, or even Islam. I think the book is an appeal for people to have the courage to do a better job of reading a sacred text. I say "a better job" because (and I think this is entirely the point of Wadud's book)-- the implications of particular readings and interpretations have resulted in unfair, uncalled for treatment and justifications. Ironically, adds Wadud, the unfair treatment that some experience because of some Qur'anic interpretations seems to be in direct opposition to what the Qur'an seems to be saying.

Whatever position one may want to take, whenever there seems to be a disconnect-- not on grounds of theological and religious righteousness, but on grounds of simply UNDERSTANDING what a text is communicating--

then I think it's a completely legitimate question to take a step back and ask the question:

What IS the Qur'an saying? Is it saying X? Is it saying Y? How can one know what the meaning of a sacred text is? How valid are the readings of others? How is it possible to do the right thing if there seems to be evidence that understanding a text proves problematic?

Wadud offers her own answers. I don't find that she says her answer is the right one, henceforth and forever more. I do think, however, that she makes some very strong points about the importance of active reading and critical thinking.

Usually sacred texts don't necessarily tell us *how* to read them or what they may mean, don't necessarily tell us *how* to apply specific meanings to the present day lives and societies we live in. Sacred texts don't tell a particular reader as they're reading in real-time that they've made an utterly wrong or half-way right interpretation. Or that they've drawn uncalled for conclusions.

Sacred texts don't endorse or speak for a *particular* reading or intepretation that's made of them, either. How can they? They aren't "interactive" and specific in that kind of way. So much about reading a sacred text has to do with human agency. That's not a failure or weakness of a text, though. I find I like reading my favorite books just for those sorts "open-ended" reasons. It's the open-endedness of a text, I think, that establishes a connection with a reader. Anyway.

By their very nature, I think texts imply (and I think this holds even for sacred ones, too) that *access* hinges on the ability of a human agent to decipher and understand.

I don't think Wadud is suggesting that the Qur'an is wrong or that Islam is wrong. I think she's suggesting that sometimes folks' decipherin' skills are off and that the ramifications of that decipherin' can be very wrong indeed. I think she also makes the point that folks have a responsibility to *read* and learn. The act of reading reveals, in time, that meaning, context, and interpretation aren't necessarily written in stone. More importantly, reading helps a reader to understand that the "not necessarily" written in stone state of affairs isn't a bad thing.

What folks want to do with that discovery, however, is a different thing. Certainly, many of the Islamic scholars who've had the most influence have had interesting answers and responses to that discovery. Some have responded for the good, some not so much.

Wadud, in my mind, is in the column of good.

A great book. Highly recommend reading "Believing Women" by Asma Barlas after reading "Qur'an and Woman." Barlas picks up the thread that Wadud leaves.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 10, 2011 – Shelved

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