Challenging Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an


Fri, 10/26/2012 - 3:00pm to Fri, 08/12/2022 - 8:56pm

Out of traditional and patriarchal interpretations of Islam’s sacred Book, the Qu’ran, several scholarly voices have emerged drawing attention to what they perceive as its egalitarian message that has long been neglected. Beginning with early reformist ‘ulama such as Imam Muhammad ‘Abduh, through to most recent studies by Muslim women scholars including Leila Ahmed, Asma Barlas, Amina Wadud, Nimat Barazangi, among others, scholars have continued to challenge patriarchal readings of the Qur’an. In ‘Abduh’s view, it was Islam that first recognized and honored the full humanity of women and acknowledged their equality with men as he firmly elucidates: “In nothing does Islam maintain its fitness to be considered a modern world religion than in the high position of honor it accords to women. According to the Quranic teachings, men and women are equal before God in all essential aspects." Nimat Barazangi maintains that, from a Qur’anic perspective, “a woman is a primary principle in the human pair of male and female,” as is also evident in the Qur’an story of Creation. Several Verses in the Qu’ran validate these claims. Based on this, many Muslim thinkers have long argued that it is not the religion but culture and patriarchal interpretation and implementation of the Qur’an that have kept women oppressed in most Muslim societies. In light of what is seen as Qur’anic evidence in favor of women, it is quite ironic that gender reforms in many Muslim societies have been adamantly resisted. This lecture addresses these issues and calls for an open-minded interpretation of the Qur’an.

Dr. Souad T. Ali is Head of Classics and Middle East Studies, Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies; and Director of the Arabic Studies Program in the School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC) at Arizona State University. She is simultaneously an Affiliate Faculty in the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Women and Gender Studies, African and African-American Studies, and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. A Fulbright Scholar, Professor Ali is the author of A Religion, Not A State: Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s Islamic Justification of Political Secularism (University of Utah Press 2009) that reached the top of Amazon’s List for “Bestselling New and Future Releases in Turkey” when it was released. Her scholarly articles have been published internationally and translated into different languages. In addition to the Translation of Ali 'Abd al-Raziq's book, Islam and the Foundations of Rule: Research on the Caliphate and Government in Islam, from Arabic into English, Dr. Ali is currently working on two new books: Gender Reforms in Islamic Contexts; and, Kuwaiti Women: Political and Social Change (based on ethnographic research and interviews she conducted as a Fulbright Scholar at the American University of Kuwait 2009-2010). Dr. Ali is the President of the Western Region Branch of the American Academy of Religion (AAR/WR); Executive Committee Member of the International Association of Intercultural Studies (IAIS), Cairo, Egypt and Bremen Germany; and Board member of Sudan Studies Association of North America. She has recently established a Council for Arabic and Islamic Studies at ASU.



MENAS Colloquium Series
Fall 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012
3pm in Marshall 490