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The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women's Rights In Islam Paperback – December 21, 1992


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The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women's Rights In Islam + Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate + Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 21, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201632217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201632217
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Muhammad was a chief of state who publicly acknowledged the importance of affection and sexuality. He was a polygynous husband whose wives were not just background figures but often shared decision-making with him. According to Moroccan sociologist Mernissi ( Beyond the Veil ), the founder of Islam asserted the equality of women, rejected slavery and envisioned an egalitarian society. Mernissi further claims that successive Muslim priests manipulated and distorted sacred texts, from the seventh century onward, in an effort to maintain male privileges. Her close textual analyses of the Hadith , or stories of words and deeds attributed to the Prophet, support her far-reaching reinterpretation of the historic roots of Islam and its modern tendency to reduce woman to a "submissive, marginal creature."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Mernissi, an internationally known Moroccan sociologist, endeavors to show that discrimination against women, so common in the Muslim world today, is not a fundamental tenet of Islam as many contemporary male Muslims would like us to believe. Her basic premise is that Islam is inherently egalitarian and, using extensive documentation from the Koran, the Hadith, and other Islamic historical commentary, Mernissi successfully proves her hypothesis. While doing so, she teaches the reader a great deal about Mohammed (the man as well as the prophet), his wives, his companions, and early Islamic society. Like Mernissi's other books ( Beyond the Veil , Indiana Univ. Pr., 1987; Doing Daily Battle , Rutgers Univ. Pr., 1989; Women in Emergent Morocco , Flame Internat., 1982), this fascinating, well-written, and well-documented work is an excellent addition to scholarship on Muslim women. Recommended for academic libraries and others with women's studies or Middle East collections.
- Ruth K. Baacke, Bellingham P.L., Wash .
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By D. Murphy on October 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Fatima Mernissi's book is a fascinating excursion through her own journey of discovery. She takes us from a man's put-down of her with the Hadith "those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity", to an enlightened understanding of the historical context in which the oppressive traditions of Islam arose.
After explaining her background in the introduction she deals with the above hadith and how it came about, she analyzes the role of women in early Islam and especially the prophet's apparent view of women and a very in-depth and detailed discussion of how the veil, or hijab, came into being for Muslim women.
She shows that the denial of women's rights was not the intention of Allah, as the source of Holy Law, nor of Mohammed, but arose in the context of the pre-existing social values of the Arab world of the time, and of the vested political interests and power struggles of the period following Mohammed's death.
The study is very detailed and quite arcane, and although Ms Mernissi takes a lot of care to explain terminology and context, it really requires some background knowledge of Islam and Arabs. The book's main target audience is Moslem women, to show they do have rights within Islam, and possibly Moslem men. I believe westerners can learn from it, but are probably better served by reading more general books on Islamic history and culture. In particular non-Moslems need to understand that Islam is not a single culture, but in reality many traditions under one umbrella, in much the same way that Christendom encompasses many religious and cultural traditions.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
I find it interesting that another reader found, within the pages of this book, justification for a Muslim woman wearing a piece of cloth to cover her head. My perception of Ms. Mernissi's views is quite the opposite. What she was trying to say throughout the whole book can be summed up in one of the final questions she asks in her conclusion: "How did the tradition succeed in transforming the Muslim woman into that submissive, marginal creature who buries herself and only goes out into the world timidly and huddled in her veils?" Mernissi then questions why a Muslim man needs such a "mutilated companion." These ideas are what make this book so important. Mernissi clearly reveals the reasons why the tradition of hiding under a veil came about. Many Muslim women feel honored to wear a hijab (head covering) because, for one reason, they feel it earns them greater respect. Mernissi's view is that when the tradition first started, most (if not all) women were considered slaves. The covering of the head signified a woman was not to be considered a slave, but someone who had converted to Islam.

I highly recommend this book to every woman, Muslim and non-Muslim, (and man, for that matter) who questions the present treatment of women in the Islamic religion.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found the first half of this book to be very well researched, with her logic based on solid foundations. I very much liked her conclusions about Muslim women in politics, and felt that she backed her case up well with her research. However, this 'fell apart' in the second half of the book where she relied on many common traditions without subjecting them to the same vigorous research process she did those in the earlier part of the book. I respect her conclusion that Islamic law regarding women was unable to reach the ideal the Prophet (sas) would have liked to see in his community, due to the patriarchal society which existed at the time, and that as Muslims we should be striving to achieve that ideal as we have progressed from the ignorance and patriarchy of those times. Unfortunately I found her evidence to be somewhat lacking in authoritativeness, and I hope to find another work which expands upon that point with a proper academic foundation.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Fatima Mernissi's book is well-written and thoroughly researched. It also draws on great works of the Islamic past. She does not throw out ahadith at all - she accepts their authenticity completely but delves more deeply into the context in which they were related. The book extols the Prophet (saw) but I don't recommend the book for non-Muslims or those who are not firm in their belief in Islam.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
I used this book 6 years ago for my thesis on Islam and feminism. It cleared up many preconceptions I had about Muslim women and the religion of Islam itself. I never revisited my research about Islam until September 11, 2001. This books shows the historical reasons behind oppressive interpretations and explain Muhammad's egalitarian vision. I use this book to educate people and show that the violent, woman-oppressing Islam is a product of hisotry and culture and not religion. This is not a time for merciless overreaction; it is a time to learn about those things few understand.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dr Mernissi tackles a difficult subject with scholarly insight and a writing style that is eminently readable. The subject she has chosen to write about is incredibly difficult and involved (as she herself acknowledges) sifting through tomes of text in order to find answers. She makes no bones about her slant ...it is evident from the very first page. She believes that the verses of the Quran pertaining to the "Hijab" were revealed in a given context and have since been unfairly interpreted (by a male elite) resulting in centuries of the exploitation of women. Having established these parameters she then proceeds a systematic process of contextualisation - sociological, linguistic, historic etc. The process is fascinating and the evidence compelling even if you are inclined not to follow her conclusions. This book is not written in standard 'scholarlese' thus allowing her to retreat to charming vignettes of her own upbringing as a woman in a deeply conservative Islamic society. I suppose the book requires some (but not a great deal) of background knowledge of Islam. Highly recommended.
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