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"Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an Paperback – June 15, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292709048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292709041
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book by Asma is a liberating phenomenon for Muslims who have suffered from misinterpretation of the Quranic text. Beyond liberating women, Asma also shows the magnificence of Islam as a liberating religion for the human race. Translating this work to other languages, especially Arabic, should be a priority. The book's only setback is its academic language which will make it hard to follow by the layperson. I believe that a simplified version of the book will help spread its message to the masses. Thank you Asma.
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By A Customer on July 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is the most excellent attempt to explain and differentiate the inconsistencies that have led to large-scale mis-interpretation and abuse of Quranic precepts. Ms. Barlas has done a brilliant job in writing to both Muslims and Non-Muslims. To those of you who are eager to dismiss her as an 'apologist', this book is not meant to make excuses: it simply presents a very valid view point that is defensible, even in the most rigorous academic discourse.
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Format: Paperback
Recognizing that men and women belong to a different sex
doesn't mean that they are unequal or that particular qualities can only be found in one sex.She offers a summary about where and when shariah was created and how the hadith were compiled. A few chapters of the book offer explanations on all of those verses that many Muslims and non Muslims read as saying that men are superior to women,polygamy, hijab, "wife beating", creation of man and woman, etc. However, I was surprised that she didn't cover the 2 women=1 male witness verse. Also, the problem with this book is that it is very hard to read. As a Muslim who knows a fair amount of information about Islam's history I still had trouble following her while she jumped around to various points in time and the vocabulary that's used.
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Format: Paperback
There's an old arabic saying, loosely translated, which says that the heart is a mirror.

Usually this is taken to mean that we love those who love us but here I'm reminded of the rendering because Dr. Barlas not only brought her considerable intellect to bear on her reading of Qur'an but from the text of her book it's also clear that she brought her heart along as well.

Though there are admittedly those who believe that their reading should stop at the end of tafsir (an extended qur'anic commentary completed around a thousand years ago) and the ahadith (or extra qur'anic sayings of the prophet which was also completed about a thousand years ago), that should not prevent those, like Barlas, who wish to continue to write and reflect with their hearts on Qur'an.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading the book. It was written after a detailed investigation about the religion of Islam and how God's revelations were interpreted over many centuries. It is clear from that book that Islam does not dictate the Arabic customs as the principles of Islam. God's ayets about women should be carefully read and interpreted, as this book has explained so. I see this book as a valuable contribution to humanity.
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Format: Paperback
In this book, "Believing Women in Islam", Asma Barlas undertakes the awesome task of re-reading the Qur'an and developing the feminine exegesis that is missing from most modern and pre-modern ijtihad. Barlas deconstructs the misogyny that patriarchal entities have assigned to the Qur'an and continues the work of Amina Wadud in her re-reading of the Qur'an. Bestowing upon the Holy Qur'an the feminine voice and a feminine reading allows women to re-claim the text from patriarchal alimeen. Through Barlas's book, women can endeavor to discover and share the sacred feminine that is embodied within the Qur'an itself.
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As a Muslim and a feminist I've sometims been at odds reconciling my feminist philosophy with my religious faith and this book made me able to reclaim my faith from misogynistic sheikhs who would have me and other Muslims think otherwise.
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By A Customer on March 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I give 5 stars to books that were life changing or else supremely entertaining. This book is one that helps turn tospy turvy archaic patriarchical ideas that may not really have had any palce in Islam in the first place.
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