Ruined by Reading

Qur’an and Woman

Posted in Book Reviews, Religion by M on April 3, 2009

Title: Qur’an and Woman
Author: Amina Wadud
Pages: 144
Genre: Non-Fiction, Religion & Spirituality
Rating: 4.5/5

Considering the author is Amina Wadud, I expected Qur’an and Woman to be much more controversial and radical than it really is. I expected to find beliefs that radically diverged from orthodox Islam, but I didn’t really find any.

What Wadud does in Qur’an and Woman is not an attack on the prophet, the Qur’an, or God. She simply explains and puts certain verses into context, and some things are simply reminders of what Muslims already know. I could tell by her words that this is a woman who has a deep love for the religion and is not trying to change Islam to suit Western ideas of what is proper. At least she doesn’t do this in Qur’an and Woman. If anything, I think she shows that Islam is just and fair.

One thing I found particularly interesting was her explanation of the verses involving the beautiful companions men receive as a reward in paradise. She explains that the first time it is mentioned, the word hoori is used, which, in Arabian society at the time meant beautiful women with light skin and large eyes. She points out to the reader that this was a Meccan verse, and the people that needed convincing at this point were men in a patriarchal society.

It is impossible to believe that the Qur’an intends white women with large eyes to represent a single universal description of beauty for all humankind.

However, hoori is never used after this point, and the second time it is mentioned is in a Madinan verse. The term used is zawj – couple, like a companion or spouse. Wadud’s point is that all the Qur’an is saying is that men and women in paradise will get a companion, and that it does not necessarily mean all men will get a bunch of beautiful, big-eyed, white Stepford wives.

Wadud also addresses the context and language behind the verse many believe gives men permission to beat their wives. She goes through the verse, explaining that it does not give anyone permission to use brutal, unchecked force against women. She also points out that issues with domestic violence in Muslim homes does not stem from the Qur’an or Islam, because the goal of the men in these situations is harm, not harmony or reconciliation. I think this is an important point to make because many that are against Islam try to make this assertion.

I liked Wadud’s breakdown of polygamy as well. She doesn’t really say anything new here, and doesn’t really say anything I don’t already think. She draws attention the fact that the verse which allows polygamy kind of discourages it by placing conditions and warnings on it. She also points out that there isn’t any Qur’anic evidence to support the justifications many use when dealing with polygamy, such as infertility and extraordinary sexual lust.

I enjoyed Qur’an and Woman, even if it was a bit over my head at times when Wadud discusses Arabic grammar and differences in vocabulary. I think she had the best intentions in writing this, and I think it’s a little ridiculous that some label it as bad, wrong, or offensive without even reading it, simply because of who she is. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks that Islam or the Qur’an is sexist of oppressive to women as this book shows only that it is based on justice.

(Note: These are just my personal views. Any explanations about the Qur’an or the historical context are Amina Wadud’s. Please keep in mind that I don’t speak Arabic and the point of this review was not to go through all of Wadud’s points and explain why they are right or wrong.)


4 Responses

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  1. M said, on April 4, 2009 at 2:10 am

    “…and that it does not necessarily mean all men will get a bunch of beautiful, big-eyed, white Stepford wives.” Great line! ;)

    I haven’t read this book but it was interesting to read your review, especially in light of all the comments I’ve heard about Wadud and her supposed agenda. Hopefully, I’ll get to read this book at some point.

    • ruinedbyreading said, on April 4, 2009 at 2:34 am

      It’s such a short book. You could definitely breeze through it in one sitting. This book was rather harmless so I want to read her other book before I make a judgment. are people really that hard on her because she led mixed prayer and thought it was okay to do so? That doesn’t seem like such a big deal. People make it seem like she says such horrible things but I haven’t come across anything yet.

  2. M said, on April 4, 2009 at 2:10 am

    P.S. Love the new format! :)

  3. […] Qur’an and Woman by Amina Wadud review […]

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