Books on Islamic Feminism

Below is a list of books that I recommend to anyone interested in understanding re-interpretations of Islam, alternative readings to the traditionalist ones that are largely patriarchal in nature, or otherwise scholarship that complicate simplified ideas of Islam, women, gender, and sexuality. These books may be a response to western, orientalist images of gender issues in Islam and Muslim societies, or they may be a response to traditionalist, patriarchal Islam’s problematic assumptions and teachings of women, gender, and sexuality — or both, as is often the case.  Either way, the following are breaths of fresh air, I promise.

Needless to say, the list is not comprehensive and not intended to be such.  I invite – and will appreciate – any and all additions.

In addition to the following scholarship, another great resource is the Religion and Feminism blog where Kecia Ali, Laury Silvers, Amina Wadud, and other Muslims write frequently on Islamic feminism and related themes. Please click these links to reach the writings of the respective authors: Kecia Ali | Laury Silvers | Amina Wadud | Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente | Jameelah X. Medina | And let me do some shameless self-promotion or whatevz and link y’all to my article over at the same blog titled Why I am an Islamic Feminist.

Islamic Feminism, Feminist/Progressive/Gender-Egalitarian Interpretations of Islam (or: scholarship that challenges dominant orientalist (re)presentations of Muslims/Islam and the dominant mainstream interpretations of Islam and Muslim women)

Listed in order of author’s last name. P.S. I plan, at some point, to categorize them better, since the list is getting longer by the week!

Other feminist/gender egalitarian resources


75 thoughts on “Books on Islamic Feminism

  1. Salaam.
    These are books which are not accessible to me. When you told me to check this section of your blog I thought i would find posts on sexuality, etc.


    • The list includes several texts on sexuality – like Kecia Ali’s “Sexual Ethics And Islam” or Scott Kugle’s “Homosexuality in Islam.”
      Why are the books not accessible to you?


  2. I live in India. I dont know about if they are banned in India. But their cost must be high.
    Actually I am in first year of my bachelors and I dont feel to spend my parents’ money on expensive books other than my text books. 🙂
    I thought it would be great if i could find posts or blogs on inernet on these issues.


  3. Thank you so much that you take out time from your busy schedule to reply to your redears’ comments.
    So generous of you.
    May Allah reward you for this
    Idea ofSummaries and Reviews sound good.

    And Thanks that you will email me relevant papers.
    I am emailing you. Please check it.
    Jazakumullah. 🙂


    • That’s not a bad suggestion, Carl. Her translation does challenge traditional takes on gender/sexuality matters in Islam (though not satisfying enough for me), BUT it’s not quite a book book, so I didn’t think to include it in the list. I’ll think about it and decide soon. Thanks for the reminder!


  4. Really a great blog, Orbala, and most of your articles are terribly interesting (and brilliantly written!). Thank you too for sharing the list of books on Islamic feminism etc. (really, a rare act of kindness and intellectual solidarity, openness). And if I may suggest a few more titles:
    ‘Contestations’, issue nr 1 (Islam and Feminism, edited by Hania Sholkamy), Meena Sharify-Funk’s ‘Encountering the Transnational’, the several interesting Dossiers published by the network of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws, Margot Badran’s works on Islamic feminism, Ziba Mir-Hosseini’s ‘Control and Sexuality’ (and her articles on ‘Decoding the DNA of Patriarchy in Muslim Family Laws’ and ‘How to Challenge the Patriarchal Ethics of Muslim Legal Tradition’, etc.), Valentine Moghadam’s essay ‘Islamic Feminism and its Discontents’ (and other essays on the same issues), ‘Islamic Feminism: Current Perspectives’ edited by Anita Kynsilehto…
    Regarding progressive interpretations of Islam: Omid Safi’s works (and his blog too!), Mohammed Arkoun’s ‘Rethinking Islam’, the website (with many downloadable articles by Khaled Abou el Fadl) and of course Abdullahi An-Na’im’s great books/essays on Sharia, secularism, freedom of belief, human rights, etc.
    (I can email some of those books/essays, if anyone needs them…)


    • Gian, thank you so much for those additions! I am laughing at myself for having forgotten some of them because of how obvious they are (like Badran, An-Na’im, Mir-Hosseini)! Adding them in just a second.


    • Oh well, here in Piedmont we have a saying: ‘great minds leave the obvious to the others because their job is just to find new ways, new things’ (hope it makes sense, given that my English is quite barbarous). Anyway thank you for thanking me (kindness always amazes me, especially on the internet).


    • No, what you said made perfect sense, and I don’t have any problem understanding you at all! I just went ahead and added all of your suggestions. Some of them, I hadn’t read before (I’m thoroughly excited to read The Contestations volume!) Thank you so much! (lol @ “thank you for thanking me”! C’mon, yaar…! I want this page to be seen as a collaborative effort and am grateful for all involvement. But, ya, I can be really ugly when I sense the need, though. I’ve been so on this blog to several commenters, but that’s mainly the bigots who get cursed with my wrath. #sighs Or these days, I just don’t accept any of the bigoted comments.)


    • You ‘ugly’??? of cors I’ve read, here and there, some of those not-exactly-peace-and-love comments that you mention but I have to say that they are perfectly fine with me (maybe because I’m a very grumpy baba or because I like your wittiness and style) so, seriously: you ‘ugly’? I don’t have a passionate enthusiasm for terminological debates but I would rather call you pugnacious and brave and strong, which are great qualities, in my eyes, also because I’ve seen that you’re very fair and respect others (with just a hint of harshness…).
      About the bigots… poor guys, after all it’s not their fault if their head “has something in common with bricks” (Hafez’s ghazal 78, translated by R. Bly and L. Lewisohn). And then, how can one not love the bigots/zealots/puritans/fundamentalists of any faith, culture, color? They are the living proof that the clash-of-civilizations narrative and the paradigm of cultural differencialism/essentialism (with its obsession with purity and authenticity) are nothing but a bunch of rhetorical topics amounting to a mythologization of reality (“a cartoonlike world”, in Edward Said’s words). Try this very easy test: find some bigots of different religions (not a hard job, they are everywhere) and ask them for their opinion on a few sensitive subjects (choose from the usual list: LGBT rights/gender equality/women’s labour market participation/women as religious leaders/domestic violence/rape and street harassement/freedom of expression/school curricula/evolutionism vs creationism etc. etc.)… then post their opinions (deleting the quotes, references to their respective Holy Books, of course) on your blog and see if your readers can figure out the religion, culture to which each of those bigots belong! (this test is inspired from an essay by Olivier Roy)
      And lastly, I see that you thanked me again! Well, then it’s your fault if now I’m going to say something like “no reason to thank me, Orbala, it was my pleasure… and it’s me who have to thank you for the opportunity to etc. etc. etc.” (joking aside, I really mean it).
      Ah, we Italians do have a passion for ceremoniusness, it’s like ta’arof for Iranians…

      (by the way, feel free to delete all my blah-blah if you find that it turns your exquisitely erudite bibliography page into a chatroom… )


  5. Right here is the right webpage for anyone who wishes to understand this topic.
    You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you
    (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh
    spin on a topic that’s been discussed for years. Wonderful
    stuff, just wonderful!


  6. Two suggestions… see if you think that they fit your list:

    -the (wonderful) essays on “the roots of the religious right” published by the great Pakistani intellectual Eqbal Ahmad on Dawn, 1999 (Jan-March issues), in which he prefigured the interpretation given by Khaled Abou el Fadl in his masterly book ‘The Great Theft’
    -Zainah Anwar, “Islam and Women’s Rights” (paper delivered at UCLA and UC Berkeley, 2007): this essay is, in my opinion, concise, complete, profound, passionate and logically stringent… hat off!


  7. Ramadan Mubarak to you, Orbala, to your loved ones, your friends and all your blog visitors/commenters. May the month of Ramadan bring Allah’s smile into all of your hearts!


    • I just re-visited your comments, Gian:) Thank you for the wishes! A beautiful, beautiful Ramadhan to you and your loved ones as well! May it be a month of reflections, peace, and infinite blessings for you and everyone you love, aameen! ❤


    • You are welcome, Orbala, and yes it’s being a beautiful Ramadan. I’m not a Muslim (I’m a Catholic and often I don’t even find good enough reasons to believe) yet I share the spirit of Ramadan with my Muslim friends here in Turin. This year the association I volunteer with is helping the local Mosque to gather the food they need to serve iftar (especially to the local poor), and on past Saturday my sis, me, a few members of the association, some priests and the city mayor were invited to enjoy iftar at the Mosque… which was a warm, touching experience of interfaith and cross-cultural sisterhood/brotherhood (I like to think that for some moments we all forgot our arrogant identities, somehow).


  8. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you very much Orbala! I was looking for some of these books from the last 3 years! And finally thought of looking up in the Internet. Thank God I found your blog. Really really really really very very very useful information! God bless you with the best blessings! And hope you enjoy this blessed month. Best wishes…


  9. Pingback: A Feminist Islam is biased Islam – but what’s a Patriarchal Islam? | Freedom from the Forbidden

  10. This list truly is a gem, thank yu so much. I hope that my library can provide all of them through distant loan if they don’t have them!


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  13. Thanks for posting this list. I recognize roughly more than half of the names on the list, but there are some names that had not yet come across … and finding a new book / author / potentially new ideas is always a rare source of excitement and joy (at least for me)
    Good wishes!


  14. As salam o Alaykyum dear!

    Please, have a look on this book “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an ..

    I use to avoid using the term “feminism” because it has a load of concepts strictly linked to a specific time , people and culture etc etc etc… that could create a big misunderstanding
    because what this mean to people from “western non-muslim culture” go against a number of islamic values about family and the struture of family in Islam. Unfortunately, we ( people, human beings) think according our cultural values and backgrounds and to think “out of box” sometimes is privilege restricted a few people.

    I am putting this point of view because I could realise when we talk about “feminism” our brothers and sistes rise up hyper getting another sense very far away which we are trying to expose. This causes an automatic and immediate revulsion and they just refuse to think using the logical and sense.

    I don’t know if you could get this same reaction from people when we mention the female muslims rise up to became aware of the women’s position and value in Islam evidenced on our own history since the first muslim comunity born.

    Only the education and studies could save us from the worse enemy that we could ever have: The darkness of ignorance

    Best wishes for you and all of your family!


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  19. Hi Orbala
    A great blog and loads of good info.
    I need some help 😦
    If you know names of memoirs by muslim writers wchich deal with islamic feminism?
    Thanks and all the best for the good work! 🙂


    • Wa alaikumus slaam,
      Some of the texts above are memoirs:

      – Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage: From Cairo to America–A Woman’s Journey
      – Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood / The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood
      – A thesis by MD Rautzhan called “Silent No Longer”
      – Nawal El-Sa’adawi’s memoirs
      – Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening
      – Afschineh Latifi’s Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran
      – Roya Hakakian’s Journey From the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran
      – Nahid Rachlin’s Persian Girls
      – Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran
      – Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (1 & 2)


    • 🙂 You’re always welcome to answer any questions people ask here. I think the more knowledge people have about these things, the better.


  20. Here are some books I’m not sure if you know about.

    Velvet Jihad: Muslim Women’s Quiet Resistance to Islamic Fundementalism by Faegheh Shirazi

    Standing Alone in Mecca – I’m sure you’ve heard of Asra Nomani, and she is very controversial obviously. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading her book.

    Questioning the Veil by Marnia Lazreg – A feminist Muslim critique of veiling

    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – has quite a bit of detail on gender in Pakistan


  21. I forgot some, but I have a few more that might be of interest. I love your book list.

    Beyond the Veil by Fatima Mernissi – Explores sexual dynamics in early Islam and in 20th century Morocco. I loved it. Also, “Dreams of Trespass” and “The Harem Within” is actually the same book published under different titles in the UK and the US.

    Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis by Haideh Moghissi

    Woman’s Identity and the Qur’an: A New Reading by Nimat Hafez Barazangi

    Secular and Islamic Feminist Critiques in the Work of Fatima Mernissi by Raja Rhouni

    Casting off the Veil: The Life of Huda Shaarawi, Egypt’s First Feminist by Sania Sharawi Lanfranchi

    Nazira Zeineddine: A Pioneer of Islamic Feminism by Miriam Cooke

    Feminist Traditions in Andalusi-Moroccan Oral Narratives by Hasna Lebbady

    Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism by Mayda Yegenoglu

    Sexuality in Muslim Contexts: Restrictions and Resistance by Homa Hoodfar and Anissa Helie

    Islamic Masculinities by Lahoucine Ouzgane

    Women’s Rights and Islamic Family Law: Perspectives on Reform by Lynn Welchman

    My Soul is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam by Annemarie Schimmel

    Encyclopedia of Muhammad’s Women Companions and the Tradition They Related: A Sourcebook for Gender Studies by Laleh Bakhtiar

    I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim by Maria M Ebrahimji and Zahra T Suratwala

    Living Islam Out Loud by Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

    Riffat Hassan’s website with her many, many publications


    • Thanks so much! I love your blog and I’m happy to contribute.

      There are some other Asghar Ali Engineer books on women. These include “Rights of Women in Islam” and “The Qur’an, Woman and Modern Society.”

      Then there is:

      Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Women on Why We Stay

      Women and Islam: Myths, Apologies, and the Limits of Feminist Critique by Ibtissam Bouachrine

      One World Publications publishes some nice, liberal Muslim books, and Zed Publisher publishes books on feminism as well.

      Feel free to pick and choose which to post if not all of them are relevant enough. Thanks so much. You’re great. 🙂

      Both of Nadia Abbots books are actually posted freely and legally online.

      I go to college, so I can check my school library to see what books on Muslim women/feminism the school has that aren’t included here yet. I don’t want to trouble you because you must be busy with school.


    • I appreciate the recommendations so much! I’ll list as much of these as possible, and readers can decide for themselves what to read.


  22. This also seems a awesome read: Sultana’s Dream and Selections from the Secluded Ones.

    “Sultana’s Dream was first published in 1905 in a Madras English newspaper, is a witty feminist utopia — a tale of reverse purdah that posits a world in which men are confined indoors and women have taken over the public sphere, ending a war non-violently and restoring health and beauty to the world. The Secluded Ones is a selection of short sketches, first published in Bengali newspapers, illuminating the cruel and comic realities of life in purdah. For course use in: history, Indian literature, South Asian studies, utopian fiction.”


  23. Totally irrelevant, but sometimes I see sometimes in books I get from the college library I find old request slips and receipts, and it makes me a bit happy to see other people reading about Islamic feminism!

    Someone wanted to read a Mernissi book so bad they filled out a request form and left it in the book after. And someone left a receipt in a book I got and all they were reading about is Arab feminism.


    • Ohhh, that warms my heart, too!! 🙂 and I do the same thing! Sometimes I even leave love notes to future readers of the books I check out from libraries. (Not writing in the books themselves – just leaving a little note thingie!)


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  25. The Rights of Women in Islam: An Authentic Approach By Haifaa Jawad

    This book is absurdly expensive. Did they only print like 12 copies or something? Like, I want to read it, but damn.


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  27. Here are some more I don’t think you have yet?

    Women in the Qurʼan: An Emancipatory Reading by Asma Lamrabet

    Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (intro by Nawal al Saadawi, includes essays by Riffat Hassan, Azizah al Hibri and Minoo Moallem)

    The Idea of Women in Fundamentalist Islam by Lamea Rustom Shehadeh (critique of fundamentalist Muslim views of women)

    In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warlock Fernea (criticism of orientalist-like views of Muslim women as perpetual victims and explores Muslim women’s feminism)

    Windows of Faith: Muslim Women’s Scholarship Activism in the United States by Gisella Webb

    Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves

    And the next few aren’t per say feminist books. They’re books about women in certain Islamic sects, but you might be interested.

    Partners of Zaynab: A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faith by Diane D’Souza

    Shia Women: Muslim Faith and Practice by Diana D’Souza

    The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman by Annabel Inge

    Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam (This is about Native American, Black, and Latina women in NoI)

    I know absolutely nothing at all about gender in Shi’a Islam, so I look forward to finding and reading these two books eventually. I’m hoping to educate myself more on non-Islamic religious feminism as well.

    I hope this might be helpful to you. 🙂 Feel free to choose whatever you like.


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  29. Pingback: why the reluctance to engage and acknowledge Islamic feminism? | Freedom from the Forbidden

  30. Hey, the book about Aisha (ra) is informative but quite insulting. The author uses a fabricated tradition at one point and writes the that Prophet (saw) attempted to curtail his wives’ liberty. She also writes that Aisha (ra) lived in a harem rather than her own apartment. And described the verse of hijab (barrier) as a regressive institution which led Aisha (ra) to give up her freedom that “Arab culture” apparently gave her. She also describes Hafsah (ra) as being too afraid of her father too “stand up against hijab”. When Hafsah was known for being extremely outspoken and confident. She says Sawdah was aging and couldn’t do anything about hijab among other baseless claims. This is very dishonest scholarship. Can you recommend any other books about Aisha (ra)?

    Oh and I’ve a few articles/books I found about Islam and women that might be helpful:

    Muslim Women as Religious scholars by Zainab Alwani

    Al Muhadithat by Mohammed Akram Nadwi

    Women around the messenger


  31. i guess I was overreacting a bit but it was a bit disappointing that she took the common (and not entirely unexpected) orientalist route when discussing zaynab’s marriage. And it was a shame when she discussed the ‘barrier’ without presenting the nuances and context of the verse in question. But she wasn’t intending to focus on that so I guess I shouldn’t complain.


  32. What Qur’an translations do you recommend for easy reading and least sectarian biased? I know no translation is perfect and am finding which Qur’an translation should I read as a beginner. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!


  33. Hello, My name is Andrea I’m from México and I’m writing my
    thesis about feminist movements in Egypt. Thanks fot the books!!!


  34. Thank you for this helpful list! I have a few more suggestions, although I haven’t read them:
    Gender and Human Rights in Islam and International Law by Shaheen Sardar Ali
    Modern Challenges to Islamic Law by Shaheen Sardar Ali
    Interpreting Islam, Modernity and Women’s Rights in Pakistan by Anita M. Weiss


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