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Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women [Paperback]

Khaled Fadl
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 27 2001
This challenging new book reviews the ethics at the heart of the Islamic legal system, and suggests that these laws have been misinterpreted by certain sources in an attempt to control women.

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About the Author

Khaled Abou E1-Fadl studied Islamic Law in Egypt and Kuwait, and has from Pennsylvania, Yale and Princeton. Currently Professor of Law at UCLA, he has served on a variety of committees for Human Rights, and has published several books and numerous articles.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spirit of Balance May 30 2002
By A Customer
Although I do agree with the previous review (the one by Sean W. Anthony) in that this book is completely engrossing, I do not agree with much else that he writes. Unlike the previous author's characterization of the work as "awkward" and one in which Islamic and Western elements "remain unmixed like oil and water" I actually think the book seamlessly navigates both the Islamic and Western traditions with great ease. Unlike some previous western Muslim intellectuals the author does not use the Islamic tradition, as he himself put it, "as a text upon which to continue a debate about Western epistemology (pg. 133, fn. 8)." The author uses Western categories as conceptual constructs to further delineate the specific dynamic within the Islamic context that he happens to be discussing. A concrete example of this can be found on his preliminary discussion on the nature and working definition of authority (pgs. 18-23). After discussing the various definitions offered by Western intellectuals for the concept of authority, the author does not simply choose one and forcibly attempt to fit classical Islamic discourses into the paradigm he has picked. Rather the author criticizes the various definitions discussed and offers a concept of religious authority that is consistent with the Islamic tradition. He does this by introducing the elements of trust and moral persuasion into the relationship between one considered an authority and a layperson within a tradition. With that said, I would also like to add that it would also be unjust to describe the contents of this book as only relevant to Muslims. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arm yourself with true knowledge. Read this book. Nov. 18 2002
This brilliant book is the antidote to the stupefying, mind-numbing, Wahhabi rhetoric that is killing the soul of Islam today. If you want to understand how to concretely argue in favor of a moral Islam, and how to answer back to the ridiculous, anti-human and counter-intuitive claims of the so-called "true Islam" that is so popular in mosque-culture today, then this book will educate and liberate you. There is something for everyone in this book. For the hard core scholars and wanna be scholars, the first few chapters will make your head spin with meticulous detail, analysis and other good brainiac food. The methodology presented for establishing Islamic authenticity is powerful and intuitively rational--great stuff! For those who just want to enjoy some very satisfying discussion, argumentation and refutation of the stupid stuff that never made any sense (ie., why women can or cannot wear bras, high-heels, go to graveyards, drive cars, etc.), the last few chapters and appendices are excellent! The appendices translate amazing and shocking Saudi legal opinions, and argue and apply the author's methodology to demonstrate why they can or cannot work. It is fine to jump to the back chapters if you are not interested in the "fine print". This is such an important work--it is the hope for change and a renaissance, to get out of the dark place that Muslims are in today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Abou El Fadl's Authoritarianism May 27 2003
Despite competently hitting the bull's eye in several locations, Dr. Abou El Fadl commits the same crime he is trying to expose and fight. Whenever it is in his interest, he fails to discharge the 5 obligations which he proposes for establishing persuasive authority, namely: honesty, self-restraint, comprehensiveness, diligence, and reasonableness. His mentioning, for example, of the inquisition of the createdness of the Quran is disingenuous. No one can claim that the createdness of the Quran implies its circumstantiality, and thus the right to supercede it. After reading the book, I wondered about the plight of the Muslims trapped between the authoritarianism of Abou El Fadl and the authoritarianism of the Wahabbis....
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4.0 out of 5 stars Authority wihout the Authoratarian May 2 2002
This work demonstrates an immense amount of erudition in both Western and Islamic traditions, and perhaps, this quality is what makes this work so engrossing. One can spend hours working through the footnotes alone. On that note, one should mentioned that K. A. El Fadel genuinely tries to present each perspective on a topic. He doesn't decieve his Western audiences by concealing the ugliness of much that exists in Islamic tradition and he doesn't shy away from criticizing many of the sacred cows of his fellow Muslims. In many ways, I found reading this book to be much like peering into the modern condition of religious authority in Islam. El Fadl doesn't paint a pretty picture, but he does demonstrate that there is hope, and the juristic tradition, as moribund as it may at time seems, shall likely continue into the future though in a radically transformed way than its previous incarnation.
Some criticisms of the book are his awkward attempts to merge insights from Western philosophy with Muslim tradition. Thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal proved long ago that this can be done with grace and skill, but El Fadl does so awkwardly at times. It seems that these elements remain unmixed like oil and water despite various attempts. Also, I wish he would have desisted from always using the Wahhabi CRLO as his main polemical opponent. There are so many other fatwa bodies, international ones at that, that I found this decision to be rather odd. Moreover, I would have liked to have seen a deeper examination of the historical contingencies surrounding these fatwas to be explored. Nonetheless, it's without a doubt a must read for anyone interested in American Muslim scholars.
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