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A powerful and convincing case for Muslim women's equality
on October 29, 2003
"Believing Women in Islam" is a must read for every individual, Muslim or non-Muslim, who labors under the misapprehension that God has spoken to the Muslims in patriarchal terms, or that Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, sanctions gender inequality. For Muslim women who already trust in their equal status before God, "Believing Women" is a tremendously satisfying read. In thoughtful and convincing tones, Asma Barlas has rigorously examined and meticulously documented the radically egalitarian text of the Qur'an. Reminding us that the Qur'an itself instructs us to read it for its best meaning and in light of its thematic whole, Dr. Barlas turns misogynistic interpretations rather definitively on their head.
With this book, Dr. Barlas has performed an invaluable service to Muslim women and their struggle both within and outside of the Muslim community. Passage by passage, sometimes even word by word, she confronts patriarchal exegesis of the Qur'an and reclaims an egalitarian reading. Skeptics who argue that Islam in practice too often fails women, as well as those who sincerely believe in misogynistic interpretations of Islam will be hard-pressed to engage Dr. Barlas' argument on its own terms--in light of a Qur'an framework and with the premise that, while people are fallible and often self-interested, God is infallible and always just.
As a Muslim woman, the journey through "Believing Women" was self-affirming and empowering. I also believe it would be of great value to my cherished and well-meaning non-Muslim friends and family who, in honest moments, no doubt still wonder how a feminist and an attorney like myself could convert to Islam.
For the same and sound reason many Muslims prefer that the Qur'an be interpreted and taught by Muslims, Muslim women have the right to hear their own voices in the ongoing discussion of what the Qur'an says about and to women. Dr. Barlas' book is an excellent place to start, and I urge everyone interested in Islam and women to buy this book.