Asma Barlas

Retired Professor, Politics


Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an
University of Texas Press 2019

August 3, 2020 Asad Dandia

Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an

Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002. Second revised edition, 2019.

Does Islam call for the oppression of women? Non-Muslims point to the subjugation of women that occurs in many Muslim countries, especially those that claim to be "Islamic," while many Muslims read the Qur'an in ways that seem to justify sexual oppression, inequality, and patriarchy. Taking a wholly different view, Asma Barlas develops a believer's reading of the Qur'an that demonstrates the radically egalitarian and antipatriarchal nature of its teachings. Beginning with a historical analysis of religious authority and knowledge, Barlas shows how Muslims came to read inequality and patriarchy into the Qur'an to justify existing religious and social structures and demonstrates that the patriarchal meanings ascribed to the Qur'an are a function of who has read it, how, and in what contexts. She goes on to reread the Qur'an's position on a variety of issues in order to argue that its teachings do not support patriarchy. To the contrary, Barlas convincingly asserts that the Qur'an affirms the complete equality of the sexes, thereby offering an opportunity to theorize radical sexual equality from within the framework of its teachings. This new view takes readers into the heart of Islamic teachings on women, gender, and patriarchy, allowing them to understand Islam through its most sacred scripture, rather than through Muslim cultural practices or Western media stereotypes.

Table of Contents

Preface to first edition
Preface to second edition


1. The Qur'an and Muslim Women: Reading Patriarchy, Reading Liberation
2. Texts and Textualities: The Qur'an, Tafsir, and Ahadith
3. Intertextualities, Extratextual Contexts: The Sunnah, Shari'ah, and the State


4. The Patriarchal Imaginary of Father/s: Divine Ontology and the Prophets
5. Beyond the Body: Abraham's Sacrifice in the Qur'an


6. The Qur'an, Sex/Gender, and Sexuality: Sameness, Difference, Equality
7. The Family and Marriage: Retrieving the Qur'an's Egalitarianism
8. Secular-/Feminism and the Qur'an

Select Bibliography


Arab Studies Journal

H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences Online


Publishers Weekly

International Journal of Middle East Studies

The Muslim World 

Library Journal