Gender Studies

“Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an

Asma Barlas, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002. 254 pages.

Does the Qur’an permit the oppression of women? Can women pursue equality and remain within the framework of its teachings? In this original and thought-provoking work, Barlas attempts to address these controversial questions. In the preface, Barlas asks whether the Qur’an is a patriarchal text, and acknowledges that while this question might not be meaningful from the perspective of the Qur’anic text itself, Muslim women today are confronted with frankly patriarchal exegeses. In order to open up a discursive space for her reading, Barlas asserts that various readings of the Qur’an should not be confused with the text itself, and that since Islam has no clergy, women can reclaim the right to interpret the Qur’an. Contrary to both conservative and progressive Muslims, she argues that the Qur'an challenges inequality and oppression.

Un-reading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an: Beyond the Binaries of Tradition and Modernity

I would like to thank AMSS, and specially Jamin Zine, for inviting me to address your conference on “Islam: Tradition and Modernity” today. Since I am in the midst of enjoying your splendid hospitality, I feel I should begin with an apology for what I am about to say. A polite guest would have praised the food and your conference and gone home without being critical of anything. But unfortunately for you, I was born with an impolitic gene and so I am going to take this opportunity to critique the way in which your conference is framed. 

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