Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective

Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective

Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective

Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective

Synopsis

Fourteen centuries of Islamic thought have produced a legacy of interpretive readings of the Qu'ran written almost entirely by men. Now, with Qu'ran and Woman, Amina Wadud provides a first interpretive reading by a woman, a reading which validates the female voice in the Qu'ran and brings it out of the shadows. Muslim progressives have long argued that it is not the religion but patriarchal interpretation and implementation of the Qu'ran that have kept women oppressed. For many, the way to reform is the reexamination and reinterpretation of religious texts. Qu'ran and Woman contributes a gender inclusive reading to one of the most fundamental disciplines in Islamic thought, Qu'ranic exegesis. Wadud breaks down specific texts and key words which have been used to limit women's public and private role, even to justify violence toward Muslim women, revealing that their original meaning and context defy such interpretations. What her analysis clarifies is the lack of gender bias, precedence, or prejudice in the essential language of the Qur'an. Despite much Qu'ranic evidence about the significance of women, gender reform in Muslim society has been stubbornly resisted. Wadud's reading of the Qu'ran confirms women's equality and constitutes legitimate grounds for contesting the unequal treatment that women have experienced historically and continue to experience legally in Muslim communities. The Qu'ran does not prescribe one timeless and unchanging social structure for men and women, Wadud argues lucidly, affirming that the Qu'ran holds greater possibilities for guiding human society to a more fulfilling and productive mutual collaboration between men and women than as yet attained by Muslims or non-Muslims.

Excerpt

The research for Qur'an and Woman started as early as 1986. At that time. I was quite naïve about how significant it would be to pursue a female inclusive reading of the Qur'an. I was also unaware of how to develop such a reading. Although interest in the question of woman in Islam was not unique, attempting to pursue an answer to that question exclusively by examining the notion of woman in the Qur'an turned out to be nearly unprecedented throughout fourteen centuries of Islamic thought. However, in these times of post- modernist critique when the very foundations of knowledge are challenged to move beyond certain value laden tendencies, such a method can be viewed as part of a larger area of discourse by feminists who have constructed a valuable critique of the tendency in many disciplines to build the notion of the normative human from the experiences and perspectives of the male person.

One objective behind my research was to establish a definitive criteria for evaluating the extent to which the position of women in Muslim cultures accurately portrays the intention of Islam for women in society. It was easy to designate the Qur'an as the ultimate criteria available within the Islamic intellectual legacy, as well as its most authoritative reference point, because it enjoys an overwhelming consensus among Muslims--however variously understood--as the word of Allah, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad for the purpose of guidance to all humanity. Hence, it could be used as criteria for checking if the status of women in actual Muslim societies could be defined as Islamic.

Because women are not deemed as important as men in most Muslim majority or minority communities, Muslim women do not enjoy a status equal to men. If the definitive basis for what Islam means is determined by what Muslims do, then women and men are not equal. However, I reasoned that only explicit Qur'anic indication that women and men were other than co-equals could require acceptance of this inequality as a basis of faithfulness to Islam. Mercifully, the more research I did into the Qur'an, unfettered by centuries of historical androcentric reading and Arabo-Islamic cultural predilections, the more affirmed I was that in Islam a female person . . .

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