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Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective [Paperback]

Amina Wadud
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 1999 0195128362 978-0195128369 1
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.

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"Excellent study. Important for cross-cultural women's studies."--Sr.Martha Ann Kirk, University of the Incarnate Word

About the Author

Amina Wadud is an Islamic Studies Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Alford
Amina Wadud's book contains a lot of useful information that is good for the general reader to know, but its so-called "woman's perspective" on statements in the Qur'an sometimes presents a distortion of what the Islamic scripture actually says about women.
While it's quite true that rights granted to women by the Qur'an were in some cases taken away by later schools of Islamic law, and while it's true that many Muslim women throughout the world do not receive even the rights (for instance, inheritance) that are granted by traditional Islamic law, the important task of understanding Islam and its scripture is made more difficult when beliefs that arose in modern times are "read back into the Qur'an", as Amina Wadud frequently does in this book.
A much sounder method of interpreting the Qur'an would be to accept its statements at face value, recognize that some statements regarding women reflect the customs of the time of Prophet Muhammad, and then "translate" or "apply" the general principles of the Qur'an regarding women in ways that are consistent with modern views -- or the views of the author.
Certain statements in the Qur'an present women in an unfavorable light. Rather than ignore these statements or claim that they say something other than their clear, literal meaning, why do modern Muslim women such as Amina Wadud not simply admit that these statements occur in the Qur'an, and then make the argument that they refer to specific incidents in the life of the Prophet, or to conditions of the Prophet's time that no longer exist or are inconsistent with modern views on the equality of men and women?
One example involves concubinage, a common practice in the Arabian peninsula during the time of Prophet Muhammad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a new view on the qur'an April 27 2004
"Qur'an and Woman" offers one of, if not the, first views on the Qur'an through a woman's perspective. Seeing as how one of the main criticisms of Islam and its followers is that it does not respect nor treat women with the same equality that it does with men, hearing how a woman herself views these ideas is very interesting.
I liked how Wadud offered readers of the text new interpretations of certain passages, such as the one which declares that a woman must wait 3 months before sleeping with a new man after a divorce, but the husband may immediately. While some may see this as discriminatory, Wadud says that it is only to help the woman, so if it turns out that she is pregnant with her ex-husband's child, she will be able prove it is his without any challanges or confusion concerning new partners.
I thought that sometimes though, she explained too much of the text away from what it could be clearly stating. Her whole process of "saying no" allows one to reject parts of the text that they do not feel fits what they want it to fit, and include parts that do. I think that that process is a little iffy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Different perspective on the Qur'an April 28 2004
Amina Wadud's contrapuntal reading of the Qur'an from a woman's perspective is not only interesting, but enlightening. Wadud argues that the Qur'an does not suggest that women should be treated as second class citizens, rather it has been the male reading of the Qur'an that has created idea. To combat this Wadud evaluates the text as a whole and certain passages. She shows that the Qur'an places women as equals, and even sometimes shows them to be more admirable than men. Wadud does encounter a problem with some passages, which she responds to by saying "no" to them. For anybody looking for a female perspective on the Qur'an this is a very good. Wadud confronts those issues facing Muslim women today, and gives textual support for equality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 27 2004
This book is fantastic! Wadud opens your eyes to a new way of looking at and understanding the Quran! Another good way to topple the idiotic patriarchy that is currently in charge.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Error March 13 2004
By A Customer
The book is wonderful. Wadud's scholarship is excellent. How surprising, then, to find an error in the Arabic quotation on the important question of "The Origins of Humankind" (p. 17):
The verse that opens the section is romanized and translated as being chapter 4, verse 1. This is the famous "created from one soul" idea that can be seen to counter the idea that Adam/man is superior by virtue of being created first. But Wadud has conflated a portion of Qur'an 30:21 with 4:1. The real verse she intends (I think) to be discussing here begins by describing God as being "the One Who created you from one soul" not "and among His signs (is this)..."
People are literal about the Qur'an and they are careful about every word and vowel being correct. I wonder what happened here?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A reader June 15 2003
By A Customer
Very interesting book that gives a fresh perspective and understanding of the Holy Book. I may not agree with everything that is said but the scholarly approach lets me know that there are various interpretations that are as valable as the more classic ones. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read July 22 2002
By A Customer
Few people, including many celebrated authors, and indeed many (of us) Muslims indeed, have ever taken the time to systematically read the Qur'an. To read for understanding, and take note of the religious laws stated therein. Compound that with the fact that each translation into English of the Qur'an is different, and it is hard to know exactly what the Qur'an actually says about women, unless one is an Arabic reader.
This book goes a long ways in debunking the popular myth and stereotype that are perpetuated by both "Orientalists" and the large mass of ignorant Muslims (who have never learned to seek knowledge for themselves).
So for those who really want to learn what the Qur'an teaches about women, if you dare to shatter your valued stereotypes...read this slim volume.
If you are willing to wade even deeper, read Stowasser's Women in the Quran, Traditions, and Interpretations.
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