From Publishers Weekly
Barlas, associate professor and chair of politics at Ithaca College, offers a comprehensive revisionist treatment of how the Qur'an actually views women as equal and even superior to men. Persuaded that Islam is a religion of egalitarianism, Barlas is equally clear that misogyny and patriarchy have seeped into Islamic practice through "traditions": the sunna, or the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam; the hadiths, or sayings attributed to Muhammad; and the shariah, or law derived from the Qur'an. Barlas argues that a military-scholarly complex manipulated the Qur'an to establish these traditions in a successful effort to preserve the position of the military rulers and clerics of early Islamic history with women's status being the victim. Some flawed traditions, along with mistranslations, ingrained patriarchy into Qur'anic interpretation, in spite of obvious Qur'anic injunctions to the contrary. Barlas's thesis is irresistible: the Qur'an itself has a very positive view of women whereas patriarchal culture caused the various interpreters of the Qur'an to read their own biases into the text to justify the oppression of women. Barlas quotes from a smorgasbord of Islamic scholars, resulting at times in a choppy read that drowns out her own more appealing voice. The opening chapter is bogged down in such quoting, and also in excessive worrying over her critics on either side of the debate. Despite these flaws, this book is loaded with interesting facts about Islam that may even surprise Muslims.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Interim director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College, Barlas analyzes both the Qur'anic text itself and its relationship to other Muslim texts and to cultural context. She argues that the language of the Qur'an, with its emphasis on divine unity, justness, and incomparability, rejects "the patriarchal imagery of God-the-Father and the prophets-as-fathers" and in fact counters "the history of rule by fathers." She further argues that the Qur'an refuses to espouse a view of sex/gender differentiation, recognizing equal spousal rights for both sexes and mutuality in marital relations. The Qur'an even links "the reverence humans owe to God and the reverence they owe to their others" and "is the only Scripture to address the rights of girls" to paternal love and "the problem of fathers' abuse of daughters." Prevalent Qur'anic misreadings, she concludes, can be traced to the sunna (or traditions), the hadiths (or sayings) of the Prophet, and the shariah (or law), which were developed by an early military-scholarly complex. This challenging book complements Amina Wadud's Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective; both are important for academic and larger public libraries. Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.