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Without Women, You Cannot Understand the Qur’an

amina wadud during a conference [Wasi Daniju - Flickr].

Muslim scholar amina wadud is convinced that in order to respect the universal value of the Qur’an, it must be interpreted from a female perspective

This article was published in Oasis 30. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2021-01-13 11:26:11

* The author has deliberately left the initials in small letters.


In 2005, she caused uproar for leading Friday prayer in a mosque in New York. But her commitment to gender equality is not just about controversial gestures. The American Muslim scholar amina wadud is in fact convinced that to respect the universal value of Islam’s holy text, the latter needs to be interpreted from a female standpoint, without which it will remain prisoner to a patriarchal culture.


Your book Qur’an and Woman. Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective is a fundamental text for gender studies in Islam. What does your method consist of?

My method overlaps with classical methods of Qur’anic analysis. For example, I use the traditional disciplines, the so-called ‘ulūm al-Qur’ān, the Qur’anic sciences, but I stretch how they are applied. The new aspect of my method is reading for gender, to use gender as a construct but also as a rubric of analysis to determine the extent to which any text participates in the patriarchal norms of its time or translates those norms for more universal, spiritual and justice-based purposes.


What image of woman emerges from the sacred texts?

What emerges from the Qur’an is that there was a teleology, that is, a purpose for human creation. According to this teleology, the human being is a khalīfa, a moral agent who holds the secret order of the divine, of the Creator, of Allah on the earth. So, the purpose of women and therefore their main identity or personality is to be agents of the divine on the earth.

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