Book Review: Olfa Youssef’s The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman: Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality

The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman: Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality
Olfa Youssef
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 ayratu 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.

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On the Orlando Mass Shooting – and a note to Muslims who condemn homosexuality

Like everyone else, I’m thinking about the mass shooting at the Orlando club, and I can’t put any words together. There’s hurt, there’s anger, there’s confusion – I will never understand, and I hope I never understand, why and how anyone can take another person’s life, let alone the lives of over 50 people. May God grant them all eternal Peace, may God be their Companion, aameen. For their families and friends and other loved ones, I can’t … I can’t think of what consoling words to share with them. I’m heartbroken that they have lost people they loved. I wish them strength and peace as they cope with these unbearable losses. God be with them, too, aameen.

There are several major issues that are deeply connected to this massacre. I wish I had the time to go into a lot of detail about each one, but I want to at least introduce them here. Maybe I’ll discuss them each in more detail another time, inshaAllah.

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Book Review: “Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition”

Needless to say, I recommend the book very, very highly. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

Pre-Post: Please click here for more details on the book.

Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition
Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger (eds.)
Oneworld Publications, 2014. ix, 286 pages.
Published in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (details below)

At a time when men’s assumption of leadership roles through all-male events and publications is a popular phenomenon, Men in Charge?, a byproduct of a project by the women-led organization Musawah, could not have been published at a more opportune moment. Comprising a Foreword by Zainah Anwar, Musawah’s director, an Introduction by the editors, and ten chapters from academics and activists of varied backgrounds, the book historicizes and problematizes the Islamic notion of qiwāmah (authority) and wilāyah (guardianship), among other legal patriarchal precepts. It successfully argues that the Islamic legal tradition with regards to gender roles rests on the false notion of men’s superiority to women. Men in Charge? carries immeasurable value for scholars and students of Islam, religion, and women’s and gender studies, activists working towards gender-egalitarianism, and (Muslim) feminists seeking empowerment within a religious framework; it also speaks to reform leaders and lawmakers in Muslim states, who might better understand the fundamental assumptions upon which family laws operate and their disconnect from the reality that women and families face. The book’s major success lies in covering several important layers of the myth of men’s authority: from the theoretical gaps in the notions of qiwāmah, wilāyah, istikhlāf, to a practical examination of the impact of these legal principles, and proposals for new and creative approaches for feminists to apply in their vision of a gender-egalitarian Islam. Continue reading

Call for Contributors: Women-Identified Sexualities and Islam

Anyone who works on or studies gender-/sexuality-related topics with a focus on Islam might be interested in contributing to the following edited volume. Please consider sending submissions and/or share with friends.

Deadline for abstracts: March 15, 2016
Deadline for complete papers (7500+ words): May 1st 2016
Tentative Title: Women-Identified (lesbian and trans) Sexualities and Islam
Editor: Huma Ahmed-Ghosh (ghosh@mail.sdsu.edu – please contact Dr. Ahmed-Ghosh with questions)

The following call is verbatim from Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh. The accompanying image is from Google.

Call for Contributors—please consider and let your friends and colleagues know!

There has been very little published work on the above topics in Asia/larger Asia/Asian diaspora. Possible topics and methods include, but are not limited to religion, Quran, Hadith, Sharia, lived experiences of Muslim women, ethnic and regional diversities, oral histories,  feminist theory, research, fiction, and poetry. Authors may use a pseudonym if they prefer. Please send your proposed contribution (abstracts) to Huma Ahmed-Ghosh at ghosh@mail.sdsu.edu by March 15, 2016. Papers will be evaluated for originality and writing style, as well as how all the contributions fit together. Potential authors will be invited to submit full articles in the range of  7,500 + words by May 1, 2016.We hope you will consider writing about your scholarship and experiences, so that these important topics receive the attention they deserve. Publisher has been finalized.

I am hoping that this volume will complement two books edited by me that will be in print (SUNY Press) on October 1, 2015 titled Asian Muslim Women: Globalization and Local Realities; and Contesting Feminism: Gender and Islam in Asia.

 

The “sh” and “kh” in Pashto: on Pashto dialects – and Pashto-learning materials

I’m pasting the below from the old blog. Click here to read the comments there; they might be useful for a better understanding of this dialect business.

A good Formspring question!

Who says Peshawar and who says Pekhawar? It seems some accents in Pashto say the -sh- as -kh- like I heard a song with dushman as dukhman. Tell us about Pashto dialects/accents 🙂 Thanks.

There are two (main) dialects in Pashto, soft and hard. The soft dialect is spoken in Quetta, Waziristan, Kandahar, and other southern Pashtun areas; the hard one is spoken in northern areas, like Peshawar, Swat, Mardan, Dir (in Pakistan) and Nangarhar, Kabul, Jalalabad (in Afghanistan). The map below should help with identifying the northern and southern Pashto-speaking regions.

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Muslim women scholars of Islam, the question of qualifications, and romanticized images of the “Islamic tradition”

The following was inspired by the #NoAllMalePanels conversation that took place on Twitter. Speaking of which, if you’re a Muslim man and agree that there should be no more all-male panels, your support is useless without your signature on the pledge. Sign here. But understand that the #NoAllMalePanels wasn’t limited to acknowledging the authority of women scholars of Islam: it was about acknowledging and appreciating women’s knowledge in all fields. Many people made the discussion about academics versus traditionalist scholars, but that was just one part of the campaign.

One of the major and more recurring points in the discussion, coming from the opponents of the conversation, was that “This isn’t about gender! Stop making this about gender! No one ever / we don’t invite women to talk about Islam because there aren’t any qualified women to speak on Islam. The women you’re talking about who you claim are ‘scholars of Islam’ are actually not scholars. They are academics! Know the difference, okay, you feminists?” To deny that gender has anything to do with this is to deny that there are serious structural obstacles to women’s religious authority (I’ll talk about this below), but for now, let’s acknowledge that we rarely/never hear anyone questioning the men’s qualifications. We simply assume they must be scholars if they have a beard of an acceptable length, wear a head-gear of some sort, preferably wear Arab clothing. When it comes to the qualification of the men “scholars,” we remember to focus on their knowledge, not the details of where/how/by whom they were educated about Islam. Zakir Naik anyone? Or some 95% of the other men “scholars” of our time.  It helps them immensely that they merely say what the community wants to hear, that they only satisfy the community’s patriarchal expectations of what Islam is like. But when it comes to a woman who speaks about Islam, her knowledge becomes completely irrelevant, and we have a whole bunch of other important questions to ask. Like is her hair covered, did she study at a secular institution, is she a feminist, etc. You can read more about this problem here. And here’s something on the gendering of knowledge and authority (so when you say something like, “no, no, she’s just not knowledgeable. It’s not about her gender at all. Stop making this about women, you feminists!” maybe you can look a little more closely and see that gender is actually a huge factor in the denial and dismissal of women’s religious/interpretive authority in our communities). Also, “not enough qualified women scholars of Islam” my foot. Check out this positively overwhelming list of scholarship on Islam, most of which is by Muslim women – and it’s not even comprehensive! And, while I’m at it with this whole self-promotion thing, I might as well also share a link to something I wrote once on female authority, the role of justice and ethics in Islamic feminist hermeneutics, and my response to the idea that “Muslim women/feminists would be able to exercise some authority in the Muslim community if only they’d just …” (insert appropriate patriarchal statement).

Okay, so.

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Novels Set in Afghanistan and Pashtun-majority Areas in Pakistan

I’m pasting the below from the old blog (you may click for the comments – some interesting stuff).
I have not read some of these books and would love any and all opinions on them.

P.S. I’d like for Pukhtuns/Afghans to write novels set in the Fatherland, folks. Seriously, white folks won’t tire of writing about us… I mean, look at the following list. Look at the orientalist attitudes so prevalent in their mindset.

I’ve been looking for novels that take place in Pashtun-majority spaces, like Afghanistan and Pashtunkhwa, or otherwise novels about/with Pashtuns as the main characters. I’m hesitant to include or read any books written by westerners about Afghanistan because I am sick of the romanticization of Afghanistan and all things Afghans, but I recognize that there are a few good, honest reads out there. I’ll include a couple of them below. The following have been recommended to me. Some of them, however, like The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns — and enjoyed them. I did not like And the Mountains Echoed (here’s why). Dying to get my hands on In My Father’s Country, too – heard great things about it.

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