The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman: Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality
Translated from the Arabic by Lamia Benyoussef
Lexington Books, 2017. 156 pages. $80
A shorter version of this review is published in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
Olfa Youssef’s The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman: Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality—translated by Lamia Benyoussef from the Arabic Ḥayratu Muslima—addresses some of the practical and conceptual inconsistences in traditional, male-centric historical interpretations of inheritance, marriage, and homosexuality. Youssef devotes a chapter to each of these topics and discusses in depth relevant questions, assumptions, and sub-themes in each chapter. A brief Introduction introduces common claims that the book responds to, claims that are treated as truths but which Youssef states have nothing truthful about them (21). She emphasizes that her intention is not to proclaim a final truth, for only God knows the true meaning of the Qur’an, but to merely point out the various inconsistences—the philosophical perplexities—that historical, traditional interpretations of these topics have raised. The underlying argument is that while the Qur’an repeatedly claims that “none knows its interpretation but God” (3:7), male scholars have feigned knowledge of the divine to the detriment of women as well as lesbian and gay individuals.