Women in Classical Islamic Law: A Survey of the Sources. By SUSAN A. SPECTORSKY. Themes in Islamic Sources, vol. 5. Leiden: BRILL, 2010. Pp. x + 223. $142.
With this welcome volume, the editor and translator of 1bn Hanbal's responsa (Chapters on Marriage and Divorce: Responses of 1bn Hanbal and 1bn Rahwayh, 1993) has performed another important service for those interested in early Islamic legal development, especially as it pertains to marriage. In a cogent introduction and five chapters, this book surveys formative and classical period Sunni legal discussions of marriage contracts and divorce. Heretofore understudied eighth- and ninth-century texts are brought into conversation with scriptural sources, with one another, and with later major texts from each Sunni school.
After a brief introduction that sketches the scope and historical development of Islamic law, chapter one addresses women in the Qur'an; chapters two and three focus on, respectively, the marriage contract and divorce in legal texts from the formative period; chapter four covers selected topics from the two previous chapters as they are addressed in the classical period; and chapter five treats elements of women's lives unexplored in the rest of the volume.
The first chapter's discussion of Qur'anic "verses particularly relevant to …