"Believing Women" in Islam
Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an
Author(s): Asma Barlas
Reviewed by: Abdullah Drury, University of Waikato, New Zealand
This brilliant book is a revised edition of the author’s original tome published in 2002. This timely update testifies to the profundity, significance and relevance of the text and its contribution to the corpus of Qur’anic studies.
Initially, the Pakistani-American scholar Asma Barlas was motivated to publish this tome driven by two primary concerns. Firstly, she asks if the Qur’an actually ‘does teach or condone sexual inequality or oppression’ (p. 1). Does Islamic scripture actually advocate or privilege gender differences? Secondly, she queries whether the Qur’an permits or encourages a degree of liberation for women with regard to a priori perception filters on gender praxis. Overall, she raises excellent questions regarding Islamic history and traditions in the field of Qur’anic studies and aggressively examines ‘how Muslims came to define epistemology and methodology’ (p. 263). She holds back few intellectual punches and maintains that the cumulative episteme of Islamic monotheism and the Qur’an is simultaneously egalitarian and anti-patriarchal.