introduction to the book, Women in the Qur'an, Asma Lamrabet writes that
the issue of Muslim women is held hostage between two perceptions: a
conservative Islamic approach and a liberal Western approach. "At the
heart of this debate Muslim women are seeking to reclaim their right to speak
in order to re-appropriate their own destinies, calling for the equality and
liberation that is at the heart of the Qur'an," she writes.
'reappropriate' Muslim women's destinies, Lamrabet attempts to debunk beliefs
and myths surrounding what is considered the 'weaker sex' by discussing and
reinterpreting Quranic verses that either tell stories of female Quranic
figures, or that directly address believing women.
chapters that tell the tales of the women mentioned in the Quran are incredibly
inspiring and Lamrabet does a great job of honouring them. She gives beautiful
descriptions of Balkis (Queen of Sheba), Sarah, Hagar, Zulaykha, Asiah, and of
course, Mariam (Mary). She gives proof of their importance and influence in the
lives of the Islamic prophets, and rightfully claims that the spread of Islam
would not have been as successful without them.
woman she describes is the woman whom Muslims believe to be the mother of
humanity – Eve. Lamrabet explains the several myths surrounding her life that,
according to Lamrabet, have contributed to the development of a strongly
patriarchal society and the belief that women are inherently inferior.
First Myth Is That Of Her Creation.
belief stipulates that Adam – as a man – was God's first creation and that Eve,
the woman, was created from one of Adam's ribs," she writes.
'legendary truth' is to Lamrabet the founding myth of the inferiority of women,
and it finds its origins in 'theological assumptions widely anchored in ways of
thinking, both in Judaeo-Christian cultures and in Muslim lands.'
observation is that to be created from Adam's rib equates to saying that her
creation is secondary, and that Adam represents a norm or human ideal. The
second observation is the idea that Eve would be the primary cause of Adam's
downfall, because she would have tempted him to transgress God's command by
tasting from the forbidden tree. According to Lamrabet, Eve has become the
undeniable muse of the legendary 'original sin'. Her final observation is that
Eve was created from Adam as well as for him, a myth that she believes is the
foundation that has legitimised the oppression of women.
beliefs are rooted in Christian tradition but they aren't actually present in
the Quran. She explains that nowhere can one find this conception of Eve coming
from Adam's rib. Rather, she gives an interpretation of Quranic verses to prove
that Eve was never created from Adam's rib, and she roots her interpretation
mostly in linguistic analysis.
interpretation of the verses written about Eve and those about other women in
the Quran seems convincing and logical, but it is unfortunately only convincing
if the reader is already convinced or already a feminist. This is arguably the
book's most striking weakness: its obsession to convince the reader.
voice is disturbingly present throughout the book, you can feel her constant
attempt to convince the reader that hers is the ultimate truth. The book doesn't
feel very academic and sometimes sounds poorly essay-ish.
While it is
difficult to disagree with the conclusions, the tone and Lamrabet's
overwhelming voice beg the question whether the writer's methodology is fully
solid and trustworthy.
Is this book
useful for the feminist cause or does it harm it?
frequent use of phrases such as 'we all know that…' or 'it is saddening to see
that…' creates an atmosphere of disdain and judgment towards more traditional
opinions, which makes one wonder whether the writer does not reinforce a
Western, white feminist paradigm, only to the detriment of Muslim women.
reinforcement of a Western approach would only serve to increase feelings of
hostility for feminist opinions. Instead of creating allies out of traditionalist
groups, this book would likely alienate them further.
important however to contextualise the publication of the book. Women in the
Qur'an was published in 2007, which is a solid decade before our 'woke' era,
making it quite ahead of its time.
disturbing element in the text is the punctuation, e.g. the frequent use of
exclamation marks and ellipses, which only increases the tone of informality,
thereby decreasing its trustworthiness. This book was first published in French
and only translated to English in 2016, and it's unclear whether the issue lies
in the original writing or the translation.
the Qur'an is an interesting read because it debunks myths and misconceptions
about women, a very important exercise that needs to be done within Muslim
communities. It's also a problematic book because it focuses on the liberation
of women in a slightly too white-oriented way and one that isn't inclusive of
more conservative women.
seeks a liberation of Muslim women, but at the expense of whom can this
liberation be achieved?
Headline: Women in the Qur'an: 'Reappropriating' Muslim women's destinies
Is A Woman’s Testimony Worth
Half That of A Man?