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The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam

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Convinced that the veil is a symbol of unjust male authority over women, in The Veil and the Male Elite, Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi aims to investigate the origins of the practice in the first Islamic community.


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Convinced that the veil is a symbol of unjust male authority over women, in The Veil and the Male Elite, Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi aims to investigate the origins of the practice in the first Islamic community.

30 review for The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Noor

    It took me more than one month to finish the book. The book is a very deep one, with alot of dense ideas that needs slow and careful reading in order to digest them fairly (specially for some one who is a beginner in philosophy like me). There is no doubt that the critical methodology of the writer is very appealing and deserves alot of appreciation. The writer tries to re-read the Islamic heritage of knowledge fourteen centuries later in a feminist critical eye. She tries to re-read in specific t It took me more than one month to finish the book. The book is a very deep one, with alot of dense ideas that needs slow and careful reading in order to digest them fairly (specially for some one who is a beginner in philosophy like me). There is no doubt that the critical methodology of the writer is very appealing and deserves alot of appreciation. The writer tries to re-read the Islamic heritage of knowledge fourteen centuries later in a feminist critical eye. She tries to re-read in specific the concept of 'Hijab' and tries to connect it to different incarnations of power relationships in different forms, like men-women relationships, matrimonial provisions, the role of military victories in the life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the provisions and history of slavery and the slaves of both genders. It is worth mentioning that the writer shows alot of bias towards every thing feminine, and against every thing in favor of males. However, this is understandable from a passionate ideologist that believes in her cause, and that is driven to counter the male bias. Another bias that I saw in the book was against Omar, may Allah be pleased with him. The writer seemed very passionate to assign him as the head of the male resistance to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him's egalitarian project, although history mentions alot of examples that show how Omar was respectful of women and did not look at them with the eye of the male power monopolist. During his reign, he has appointed a female companion, Al Shifa'a bint Abdellah, as the market supervisor, or what was known as 'Qadi Al Hisbah'. Also, a famous incident mentions a man approaching Omar as a Caliph in order to complain about his wife's constant screaming at him, to find that the Caliph's wife shouts at him with the same high voice. However, Omar justifies this on her behalf by saying that in return of all of the effort she does to serve him she has the right to be overlooked when she screams some times. This is the only book I have read for Fatima Mernissi, and to be honest, the titles of some of her other books do not seem very appealing to me. However, regarding this book in specific, I highly recommend it for intelligent religious mind that can find the balance between their critical minds and their commitment to what Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala wants from us.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Noor Sabah

    Only with long pauses and careful reading , this book is so good . So many sociology , so many incidents to " rethink" about it .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Lameche

    Well what an interesting book. I am a hijabi myself but do not wear my scarf believing that it is something I have to wear to be a 'proper Muslim woman'. On the contrary I wear my scarf as a form of Dawah. To show those who are not Muslim that I am a normal woman just like any one else. I am not a terrorist or abused woman. I wear the scarf by choice not force. However I may one day take off my scarf (shock horror, here come the lectures). If I do this will also be my choice. I know many Muslim Well what an interesting book. I am a hijabi myself but do not wear my scarf believing that it is something I have to wear to be a 'proper Muslim woman'. On the contrary I wear my scarf as a form of Dawah. To show those who are not Muslim that I am a normal woman just like any one else. I am not a terrorist or abused woman. I wear the scarf by choice not force. However I may one day take off my scarf (shock horror, here come the lectures). If I do this will also be my choice. I know many Muslim women who wear the scarf yet seem to do it for show and know little about their religion. I also know many Muslim women who don't wear the scarf and seem more religious and spiritual than others. I do not judge those who do/don't wear the scarf and don't expect to be judged, yet I will be. People will say I am not religious enough, I do not understand, I am not practising etc etc Well people are not Allah and I care not what they say/think about me. We all have our own path to follow, our own beliefs but I refuse to do something because I am told I HAVE to. I want to know WHY, for what reason? If its not in my heart I wont do it. What Fatema says in this book regarding (not just) the veil makes a lot of sense to me. We are all aware that some men continually try to use hadith to excuse their misogynistic behavior. Oft ignoring the contradicting hadith. There are too many people who say you have to follow all hadith (despite the contradictions). Well sorry Allah gave me a brain and told us that ONLY the Quran has never and will never be changed. Therefore it is ONLY the Quran I will ever trust 100%. The hadith I use my own judgement and research before I will follow it. Every woman has the right to walk down the street unafraid. Every woman has the right to choose if to cover their hair or not. More importantly every woman has the right not to be judged. I am a proud Muslim woman and I am very proud to wear the scarf and be recognised as a Muslim. This is my choice and as long as no one takes away my right to choose I will be very happy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Komal Mahmood

    So I found out that this book was banned, and I can understand why, but not why it continues to be a problem. Not only is it tactfully written, it also protects the muslim sensibilities; glorifies the character of the Prophet SAWW while studying the 'traditions of misogyny' which according to Mernissi were either spoken and narrated out of context or entirely misinterpreted by people who sought to keep women subordinated and timid. The brilliance of Mernissi lies in the fact that, while dividing t So I found out that this book was banned, and I can understand why, but not why it continues to be a problem. Not only is it tactfully written, it also protects the muslim sensibilities; glorifies the character of the Prophet SAWW while studying the 'traditions of misogyny' which according to Mernissi were either spoken and narrated out of context or entirely misinterpreted by people who sought to keep women subordinated and timid. The brilliance of Mernissi lies in the fact that, while dividing the book into two parts: the first part in which she studies the hadith; the second part in which she studies the Quran verses; she establishes Hazrat Aisha as a feminine authoritative referent for the former while for the latter she brings to light the very cosmopolitan character of the Prophet SAWW as a tool for scrutiny of the verses. The fact that she is extremely sceptical of majority traditions highlighting the subjugation of woman should not be offensive given that she is very thorough in examining and expounding upon the evidence she offers. Her approach is a very rational one and she does not shy away from bringing to light the shadowy aspects of certain companions and their motives whilst relating such traditions. The verses which she believes have been used for perpetuating misogyny she claims have been read out of context. Mernissi offers a variant reading and interpretation, offering proofs ranging from cultural, civilizational, and linguistic to historical. No reason why the book should not be read. Nothing can be as strong as to weaken one's iman (faith). Certainly not a book (written by mere mortals).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    The Veil and the Male Elite is a tricky book to rate, since I am definitely not its target audience. I suppose I expected a feminist look at modern Muslim culture, and this book is really more a theological look at women's rights and a historical look at how various verses of the Koran that are used to justify anti-feminist sentiments in Muslim cultures came to be included. My knowledge of early Muslim history was greatly enhanced by reading this, and yet I felt something of a Sunni bias creepin The Veil and the Male Elite is a tricky book to rate, since I am definitely not its target audience. I suppose I expected a feminist look at modern Muslim culture, and this book is really more a theological look at women's rights and a historical look at how various verses of the Koran that are used to justify anti-feminist sentiments in Muslim cultures came to be included. My knowledge of early Muslim history was greatly enhanced by reading this, and yet I felt something of a Sunni bias creeping into its middle chapters. Since I considered my own knowledge inadequate at identifying this in its entirety, it made the entire book less trustworthy for me, since I felt too ignorant to judge what was and was not widely accepted as truth throughout the Muslim world. The introduction and first chapter are an inexplicably unintelligible low point of the book, and I highly recommend skipping them and perhaps returning later; I nearly threw in the towel on reading the entire work because these were either so poorly written or translated that I found them almost unbearable. After that, the book settles into a more historical overview, and takes us through the founding of Islam and the political events that surrounded various prophecies. For those unfamiliar with Islam it's a rapid and fascinating overview. I found the author's feminist insights actually less valuable than her overview of Islam. My favorite part of the book is learning about Sukayna in the conclusion. She sounds fascinating, and I wanted to learn more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    Something by Mernissi should be required reading for everyone that studies the Middle East or Islam. This would be high on my list of recommendations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fatha Hassan

    I decided to read this for one of my research of my Dissertation and it was recommend by my supervisor. I had fell in love with this read. It is insightful and helped me understand the religion by reading an interpretation from a women instead of a man.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samah

    very challenging, convincing I think more women should discuss and study this book

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Mernissi’s book is a history of Islam and the introduction of the veil. She draws upon Islamic scholar, to prove her thesis that the veil is social construct more than a religious must. Her chapter about the hiqab is game changing. In part, her thesis is that the Prophet was too progressive for the men of the time, that what he was advocating was too much of a change upon tribal customs where men were able to dominate. What is also interesting, though Mernissi does not focus or really mention Mernissi’s book is a history of Islam and the introduction of the veil. She draws upon Islamic scholar, to prove her thesis that the veil is social construct more than a religious must. Her chapter about the hiqab is game changing. In part, her thesis is that the Prophet was too progressive for the men of the time, that what he was advocating was too much of a change upon tribal customs where men were able to dominate. What is also interesting, though Mernissi does not focus or really mention it, is the similarity between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in treatment of women. I do wish, though I am not sure how this could have been covered in this book, that Mernissi had detailed, somewhat, the difference between the Prophet’s daughter and his wives. The wives, for the most part, seem far more progressive and are mentioned, in particular A’isha, several times over the course of the book. Why was his favorite daughter far more conservative? Still, if you are curious about the veil or the early days of Islam, this book is highly recommended. In particular if you have read Ayann Hirsi Ali or Mona Eltahaway, you should check this book out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marrysparkle

    This book is what I had been searching for for a very long time! A book written by a (1) female (2) religious (3) scholar. I learned an immense amount of knowledge regarding the social, religious, political and personal circumstances involving the Prophet the spread of Islam which led to the usage of the veil and the justification for the inferior status of women in society. I applaud the author for painstaking sifting through all of the hadiths and explaining the precise methodology with which This book is what I had been searching for for a very long time! A book written by a (1) female (2) religious (3) scholar. I learned an immense amount of knowledge regarding the social, religious, political and personal circumstances involving the Prophet the spread of Islam which led to the usage of the veil and the justification for the inferior status of women in society. I applaud the author for painstaking sifting through all of the hadiths and explaining the precise methodology with which she exposed those religious edicts that were false! The author provides a revealing and enlightening look at the Prophets egalitarian vision of society and how many of respected first women of Islam were strong, intelligent women who were free to walk in public, discuss politics and determine their futures. Overall an extremely important read for those who are looking for the difficult truths that have led to the status of many women in Islam.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erica Aisha

    It's hard to read a PhD thesis and not feel like you've received required reading for a college class; however, Mernissi is adept (in this translation) at being interesting and factual in her search for the feminist interpretation of hadith. She focuses primarily on the hadith concerning women in political leadership and recounts how hadith traditions grew, and the methods formulated to determine validity scales. With a useful insight into understanding Islamic texts, her feminist views are quit It's hard to read a PhD thesis and not feel like you've received required reading for a college class; however, Mernissi is adept (in this translation) at being interesting and factual in her search for the feminist interpretation of hadith. She focuses primarily on the hadith concerning women in political leadership and recounts how hadith traditions grew, and the methods formulated to determine validity scales. With a useful insight into understanding Islamic texts, her feminist views are quite obvious, but not overpowering and her personal narrative is one I personally connected with as she struggled to align her understanding and love of Islam with patriarchal issues found in tradition or traditional ideas.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

    Another of Mernissi's deep academic works on women in Islam. I think it might be related to Beyond the Veil--much of the general ideas are the same, including that orthodox Islam allows women much greater freedoms than generally believed in the West (and generally practiced in Islam nations). A good solid read, but not as entertaining as Nine Parts of Desire.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Minci (Ayurveda) Ahmetovic

    Knowledge is to be shared according to the promise of the Prophet himself. Not only have the sacred texts always been manipulated but manipulation of them is a structural characteristic of the practice of power in Muslim societies. Let us raise the sails and lift the veils - the sails of the memory. But first let us lift the veils with which our contemporaries disguise the past in order to dim our presence. The Muslim and Time Muslims suffer from a mal du present (zlo sadašnjosti) just as the yout Knowledge is to be shared according to the promise of the Prophet himself. Not only have the sacred texts always been manipulated but manipulation of them is a structural characteristic of the practice of power in Muslim societies. Let us raise the sails and lift the veils - the sails of the memory. But first let us lift the veils with which our contemporaries disguise the past in order to dim our presence. The Muslim and Time Muslims suffer from a mal du present (zlo sadašnjosti) just as the youth of Romantic Europe suffered from mal du siecle (zlo stoljeća). The only difference is that the Romantic youth of Europe experienced their diffciculty in living in the present as a disgust with living, while we Muslims experience it as a desire for death a desire to be elsewhere, to be absent, and to flee to the past as a way of being absent. Suicidal absence. The best attitude, the most humble and effective is apprenticeship. But to advise humility to a humiliated Arab world where politicians rely on the grandiose dreams and myths of past glories is very disturbing to people. Al-Jabiri gives copious historical example to prove that in Islam the politicians quickly realized they could only authoritatively manage the present by using the past as a sacred standard. Why is there this desire to turn our attention to the dead past when the only battle that is important to us at the moment is that of the future. Today it is the control of time that is the basis of power. It is not the oil that lies beneath your soil that makes you rich, but control of speed of the marketing operations necessary for positioning it on the world market. Geopolitics is today replaced by the laws of chronopolitics,a time scenario in which power is achieved through control of intangible. The flow of signs, circulation of information, liquid sums. National boundaries have become obsolete, ridiculous. Power and domination use another language. They are defined in terms of an investment projects. The enemy is ingrained in our little calculator. He is in our head, our way of calculating, consuming and buying. The West, drugged with growth (drogiran) projects its present into the future and forces us to realize that in order to take up this challenge we must fight on the grounds that it has chosen, the present. Arrow of time is the challenge of the century: an arrow pointing in the wrong direction, a direction that makes us nervous - direction of the future. The Muslims are not the only ones to be terrorized by the misuse of memory. Difference between Westerners and us is not so much about attitude toward change toward time anguish about times arrow draining us as it points toward death. Being Muslim is a civil matter, national identity, passport, family code of laws, personal choice, Islam as a law and state religion contributed greatly to the failure of Leftist movement and of left in general in Muslim countries. March with long strides toward a future where creating is possible, remaking the world is justifies living? What characterizes the modern West is its success in masking its fascination with death with a fascination with the future thus freeing creative energies. But modern Muslems, prefer to die before even living, be it only for a few decadess. The difference between the West and us is in the way we consume death, the past. Westerners make it into a last course, and we try to make it a main dish. Westerners consume the past as a hobby, as a past time, as a rest from the stress of the present. We persist in making it a profession, a vocation, an outlook. By invoking our ancestors at every turn we live the present as an interlude in which we are little involved. At the extreme, the present is distressing contretemps to us. Al-Jabiri explains that our morbid looking to the past keeps us from understanding it. "The fading of ourselves into the past is one of our main magic formulas" In order to understand the ancient texts, al-Jabiri tells us you have to be rooted into the present. You have to take up distance from the texts in order to decode them, to give them their meaning. Reader must separate his own time from texts - that of the present - from that of the text. The process of redefinition took place in the river of time where one never has the chance to bathe twice. Metamorphosis of Muslim woman from a veiled, secluded, marginalized object, reduced to inertia, into a subject with constitutional rights erased the lines that defined identity hierarchy which organized politics and relations between the sexes. Our traditional identity hardly acknowledged the individual whom it abhorred as a disturber of the collective harmony. In Islam, the idea of individual in the state of nature, in the philosophical meaning of the word, is nonexistent. Traditional society produced Muslims who were literally submissive to the will of the group. Individuality in such a system is discouraged, any private initiative is bida, or innovation, which necessarily constitutes errant behavior. Traditional society tried to stop development of individuality at the stage that did not threaten authority of the leader, creating a ghost of an individual who would not have autonomy. The fundamentalist movement from its beginning challenged and rejected idea of people as the origin of political decision or legislative power since only Allah svt makes such decisions. This leads me to believe that it is not the fundamentalists who are the absurd ones on the contemporary scene, it is the Muslim Left which believed it could exist without considering fundamental secular issue - transfer of power from sacred to the human, from transcendent divine being to an ordinary individual. Islam began with an order to read, to inform onself. That was in a year 610. To call into question social, political and sexual inequalities all at the same time is enough to make ones head spin. Imagine the effect of a phrase as inoffensive as "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" in societies where inequality of sexes reproduces, guarantees, paves the way for political inequality and affirms it as the foundation of cultural existence as identity. The access of women as citizens to education and paid work can be regarded as one of the most fundamental upheavals experienced by our socities in the 20th century. TRADITION OF MISOGYNY (3) Nothing bans me as a Muslim woman from making a double investigation - historical and methodological - of Hadith and its author ("Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity", and especially of the conditions in which it was first put to use.. Muhammad pbuh dream that all the poor, humiliated of the world, could accede to power and wealth. "the Arabs were in an unspeakable state of degradation, powerlessness and profligacy". In pre-Islamic period, being able to trace one's paternal line to the most distant ancestor was the mark and privilege of aristocrat. Jahiliya is the time when people did not have criteria for distinguishing permitted from the forbidden, licit from illicit. One of the revolutionary practices in sense of breaking up with the past that Islam institutionalized was idda, waiting period that required Muslim women separated from her husband from one reason or another to not remarry before passing of several menstrual cycles. The gravest danger that the Muslim nation could face was not that of being ruled by an unjust leader but rather of falling into civil war. Lets not forget that Islam means submission. If the leader was challenged, fundamental principle of Islam as order was in danger. Others thought that lack of justice in the Muslim chief of state was more serious than civil war. Muslim must not turn back when he sees leader commit injustice and reprehensible acts -al munkar. Prophet as. said #If people see al-munkar and do not try to remedy it they incur divine punishment". "This religion is science so pay attention to those from whom you learn it" M.I.Anas. "Ignorant persons must be disregarded" Ignorance, intellectual capacity and were not only criteria for evaluating narrators of Hadith - most important was morale. "Knowledge cannot be received from mentally deficient person - safih, nor from someone who is in the grip of passion and who might incite innovation nor from liar who recounts anything at all to people" redoubled vigilance when taking sacred as an argument.... TRADITION OF MISOGYNY (2) For Lalla Faqiha to read and write an incomprehensible text was a way of celebrating Kuran as mystery. "If you do not feel the harmony of it,you should go serve Christians and Jews" Qibla is an orientation toward the place of Kaba, age-old sanctuary taken over by Islam in year 8 of Hijra, AD 630 when Prophet reconquered his native city. Qibla gives to Muslim prayer spiritual objective-meditation, pragmatic objective-discipline, cosmic dimension. Arab world was in such a state of crisis that its people did not believe themselves worthy of having a prophet of their own lineage. Islams role as a response to nationalist crisis, crisis of self-confidence. Mosque, unlike in other religions, is not a building, a construction, but a perspective. It is everywhere: "The whole earth became my mosque" Qibla makes the world turn, with an Arab city at its center. Excluding women from qibly is excluding them from everything - from sacred dimension of life, from nationalist dimension, which defines space as field of Arab/Muslim ethnocentrism. Subject of many Hadith is "polluting" essence of femaleness. It is undeniable that Islam has an attitude bordering on anxiety about bodily cleanliness, which induces in many people almost neurotic strictness. Our religious education begins with attention focused on body, its secretions, fluids, its orifices (otvor), which child must learn to constantly observe and control. Islam stresses the fact that sex/menstruation are extraordinary events, but they do not make a woman a negative pole that annihilates in some way presence of divine and upsets its order. Very quickly the misogynistic trend reasserted itself among fuqaha and gained the upper hand. We will see resurgence in many Hadith of that superstitious fear of femaleness that prophet as wanted to eradicate. We must guard against falling into generalizations/saying that all imams were misogynistic.This is not true today/it was not yesterday. "I never saw anyone who had so much knowledge about religion, poetry, medicine as Aisha ra". Umar who enjoyed unparalleled influence on Prophet/Muslim community bc of his prestige as man of politics, boldness in military matters, strong personality, horror of lying, avoided recounting Hadith. He was terrified at idea of not being accurate. He preffered to rely on his own judgement rather than trust memory, which they considered dangerously fallible (pogrešiv). "yushbah" - to hallucinate Umar who was well known for his physical vigor and who awoke city every day to say dawn prayer disliked lazy people who loafed around without any definite occupation. All monotheistic religions are shot through by conflict between divine/feminine, but none more so than Islam, which opted for occulation (pomračenje) of feminine at least symbollically trying to veil it, hide it, mask it. HIJAB, THE VEIL hIJAB - THE CURTAIN - "descended" not to put a barrier between man and woman, but between 2 men. Descent of hijab is an event dating back to verse 53 sura 33 - year 5 Hijra. This expression covers 2 events: 1 is Gods revelation in intellectual realm, and other is descent of cloth hijab, material object, curtain that the Prophet draws between himself and man who was at the entrance of his nuptial chamber (bračna komora). Hijab was to be solution to whole web of conflicts/tensions. Boorish manners whose lack of delicacy offended Prophet whose politness bordered on timidity. Koran is book rooted in daily life of Prophet as/his community, often a response to given situation. Prophet was renowned for his incredible capacity for selfcontrol. He was never of rash impulses, used to take whole days to reflect when confronted with problem, people were accustomed to not having immediate answers. It was character trait that made possible for him to survive/communicate wh society of very violent customs. He was renowned for ability to absorb tension/remain calm, tolerate rude/boorish men (neotesan). Quraysh, Prophets tribe, he threatened their interests. He wanted to intimate to Companions certain niceties they seemed to lack, like not entering dwelling without asking permission. Hijab is 3 dimensional: 1. visual one - to hide something from sight. (hajaba - hide) 2. spatial - separate, mark a border, establish threshold 3. ethical: it belongs to realm of forbidden. So we have not just tangible categories that exist in reality of senses-visual/spatial-but also abstract reality in realm of ideas. Space hidden by hijab is forbidden space. For Muslim Sufis, person has access to boundless spiritual horizons, which the Muslim must aspire to. In this context hijab is essentially negative phenomenon, disturbance, a disability. In Sufism, mahjub (veiled) is person whose consciousness is determined by sensual/mental passion, who as a result does not percieve divine light in his soul. In this usage, it is man who is covered by veil, curtain and not God. For Sufis, mahjub is one who is trapped in earthly reality, unable to experiment with elevated states of consciousness. It can be smth that diminishes human intelligence. Concept of hijab is key concept in Muslim civilization, just as sin in Christian context, or credit in American capitalist society. Reducing/assimilating concept to a scrap of cloth that men have imposed on women to veil them when they go to street is to impoverish this term, not to say to drain it of its meaning, especially when one knows, that hijab according to Koranic verse and Tabari explanation "descended" from heaven to separate space between 2 men. We see that Hijab can express spatial dimension, marking threshold between 2 distinct areas, it can hide smth from view, as in case of hijab of prince. But it can express opposite idea, for Sufis, blocks knowledge of divine. It is limited individual who is veiled. Hijab that separates you from prince is to be respected, one that separates you from God should be destroyed. To complete anylsis, anatomical use of word hijab, designates boundary/protection. Diaphragm is hijab al jawf-hijab of stomach, hymen is hijab al-bukuriyya or hijab of virginity. The one who is most blined by hijab is polytheists. Obviously women participation in public prayer becomes a clandestine act (potajan). In general, hijab in Kuran means separation. It is the veil/curtain behind which Mary isolated herself from her people, it is also separate establishment (later gynaeceum) which was imposed at first only on the wiwes of Prophet. This necessity to investigate it from beginnings, will help us understand resurgence at the end of 20th century when Muslims in search of identity put the accent on confinement of women as a solution for pressing crisis. Protecting women from change by veiling/shutting them out of the world has echoes of closing community to protect it from West. 6. THE PROPHET AND SPACE relationship OF POLITICAL LEADER WITH HIS ENTOURAGE is totally different if he lives in a a place far from people, on mountain or in inaccessible valley than if he chooses a home among people he governs, lives in same conditions they do, and is linked to them by neighborly relations/constant contact. It should help us understand Prophets extreme sensitiveness to rumors/gossip/everything going on. Term munafiqun is applied to opportunists of every type from political opponents/those who critized his private life. The more intense life of community is, less common individual initiative is. This intensity has its disadvantages, weight of social control that hangs over individuals/prevents them from being different/innovative/changing things around them. His apartments were very modest, must have embarassed (shabbiness-otrcanost) caliphs who decades later were living in Palaces. "I was still an adolescent when I went into Prophets house - I could easily touch the ceiling with my hand". Everywhere where there was love, admiration,enthusiasm, there was inhibition/resistance. His simple manner of living was threat to those around him, for he cared nothing for virtues of public/private division of space, male supremacy can only exist/be consolidated is division is maintained as an almost sacred matter. Prophets architecture created space in which distance between private/public life was nullified, physical thresholds did not constitute obstacles. 7.PROPHET AND WOMEN KHADIJA WAS full of initiative in public and private life. Allah spoke of 2 sexes in terms of total equality as believers, as members of community. It is not sex that determines Gods grace, it is faith and desire to obey him. Umm Salamas question was result of political agitation not of capriciousness of an adored wife. Arabia was a slave society where individuals belonged to 1 of 2 categories; free persons - ahrar or slaves-abid. It was true for both sexes. "Of use is the reminder" (87,9). Not only were young girls deprived of their inheritance according to pre-Islamic customs, but they were also object of sexual abuse/mistreatment of all sorts. Idea of accepting children of both sexes as having inheritance rights encountered strong resistance that God decided to list among 7 mortal sins act of not giving fatherless children their due. New religion represented not just promise of conquests but also ethical system that imposed some sacrifices. The amount for each situation was fixed in precise detail in order to avoid any ambiguity. Despite all those precautions/clarifications, men continued to try to suppress egalitarian dimension of Islam. They suddenly found themselves stripped of their most personal privileges. Unlike slavery that affected only the wealthy, change in the status of women, affected them all. No man was spared regardless of his class/means. excluding women from inheritance is top introduce specification by sex that does not exist in Koranic text. Position of modern Islam as a society on questions of women/slavery is good illustration of utter neglect of principles that inability of political Islam as a practice as opposed to an ideal, to enforce equality in social life as endogenous highly valued characteristic. Paradoxical result is that despite Islams opposition to slavery in principle, it only disappeared from Muslim countries under pressure/intervention from colonial powers. it is in order to evaluate depth of contemporary Muslims amnesia, which sees equality of sexes as an alien phenomenon, that we must return to narrow streets of Medina, where debate on equality of sexes raged and where men were obliged to discuss it but refused to accept it although Allah svt demanded it. As today, men professed Islam, but openly rejected it when it supported equality between sexes. Umar was ready to destroy gods of polytheistic Mecca that his ancestors worshipped/thus upset equilibrium of heavens. But to envisage that Arab woman could claim different status on earth seemed intolerable change to him. Female slavery was a source of sexual gratification, domestic labor, and of reproduction of that labor force.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book reads like the Old Testament. It is a series of scriptures, stories and historical findings about the prophet and his wives that are used to argue for female equality and against the hijab. While I understand that Mernissi has to use Islam and Islamic teachings to argues for her point, I wasn't too impressed. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam and its history from a feminist(-ish) perspective. The best comparison I can make for western readers is This book reads like the Old Testament. It is a series of scriptures, stories and historical findings about the prophet and his wives that are used to argue for female equality and against the hijab. While I understand that Mernissi has to use Islam and Islamic teachings to argues for her point, I wasn't too impressed. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam and its history from a feminist(-ish) perspective. The best comparison I can make for western readers is that Mernissi's argument is the equivalent of a conservative, Christian woman using the bible to argue for female rights. There is always scriptures that can support a person's point, so while I applaud Mernissi's effort it still left me unimpressed. I think the most important aspect to keep in mind while reading this book is what Mernissi says in her introduction. She describes the way westerners, America specifically, claim to be modern and not bogged down by religion; yet she claims that Christianity and Judaism permeates our culture (which it does). She then asserts that Islamic countries should be able to achieve the same harmony between government and religion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dawood Ahmed

    Excellent book which true to the title, provides a non-misogynist interpretation of Islamic texts in the context of women. It is an academic work, so well researched.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elyndrical

    Second year history student at university here. I originally got onto this book because we were looking at Ibn Battuta's travels in the Maldives and the question of divorce came up. I was fascinated about what was and wasn't permissible in the 7th century CE and what sort of foundations were being laid by the new religion. I found the book insightful and interesting. I thought the author tried hard to give hadith context and seemed to have researched the topic extensively. Mainly the book seemed Second year history student at university here. I originally got onto this book because we were looking at Ibn Battuta's travels in the Maldives and the question of divorce came up. I was fascinated about what was and wasn't permissible in the 7th century CE and what sort of foundations were being laid by the new religion. I found the book insightful and interesting. I thought the author tried hard to give hadith context and seemed to have researched the topic extensively. Mainly the book seemed to research particular hadith and provide both context and counter examples.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I'm taking a class on Muslim women and the veil, and this book was an excellent introduction to the inception and history of Islam as well as the origins of the veiling issue. Though I have a lot more reading to do on the subject before I form any definitive opinions, this book was certainly a great read with compelling evidence on the issue, suggesting the importance in looking to the past before making any presumptions about the present when it comes to issues as controversial as the veil.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vera Sophia

    As someone who is Muslim by birth and was educated in an Islamic school, I've always had this image of the Prophet's community as the perfect model to be emulated, the Companions as devoid of personal interests. Discussions on circumstances behind the great schism, regression to dynastic system, differing opinions on veiling etc. none of this ever came up during 12 year of Islamic subject at schools. I was even scared to ask questions thinking It'd be sinful. Ironically, I only learned about it As someone who is Muslim by birth and was educated in an Islamic school, I've always had this image of the Prophet's community as the perfect model to be emulated, the Companions as devoid of personal interests. Discussions on circumstances behind the great schism, regression to dynastic system, differing opinions on veiling etc. none of this ever came up during 12 year of Islamic subject at schools. I was even scared to ask questions thinking It'd be sinful. Ironically, I only learned about it during college years (in a Catholic university no less). I agree with what the book says about history as a means to control: "History is always the group's language, the official narrative that is pressed between covers of gold and trotted out for ritual ceremonies of self-congratulation". This book is a journey back in time, a fascinating recollections that even during the Prophet's era, just like ours, there were conflicting interests, power struggles and compromises made.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beaman

    Mernissi writes as an amateur, without much training in early Muslim sources, which inevitably leaves rigorous historians skeptical. However, she's much more competent in her use of the historical sources than Leila Ahmed, the other widely-read author on the topic of women in early Islam. Moreover, she does make a couple of original and worthwhile observations and raise an interesting point or two that one can argue about. In other words, the rigorous historian ought to be grateful that an amate Mernissi writes as an amateur, without much training in early Muslim sources, which inevitably leaves rigorous historians skeptical. However, she's much more competent in her use of the historical sources than Leila Ahmed, the other widely-read author on the topic of women in early Islam. Moreover, she does make a couple of original and worthwhile observations and raise an interesting point or two that one can argue about. In other words, the rigorous historian ought to be grateful that an amateur has produced something that is not entirely without value.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wim

    I found this book incredibly insightful: it is very well documented and gives both the historical context and the various interpretations in Islamic right on women issues. The book, of which I read the original French version, is not technical or theoretical it all. It is highly readable. And to me, surprisingly positive on the original meaning of Islamic faith as a democratic and egalitarian revolution. Unfortunately, some issues regarding women are not treated such as child brides and genital m I found this book incredibly insightful: it is very well documented and gives both the historical context and the various interpretations in Islamic right on women issues. The book, of which I read the original French version, is not technical or theoretical it all. It is highly readable. And to me, surprisingly positive on the original meaning of Islamic faith as a democratic and egalitarian revolution. Unfortunately, some issues regarding women are not treated such as child brides and genital mutilations.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    A good example of immanent critique. (Though in retrospect I wish I had read it in the original French, as some of the translator's choices seemed awkward.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hossein Davani

    Best book from Fatima mernissi

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sabina Qadri

    In this excellent work, Mernissi has achieved preeminence by introducing the 'psychoanalysis' of narrators to the Hadith sciences. This methodology has the potential to reconstruct the thought and praxis of Muslims; the only prerequisite to reading it is to approach with an open mind and be prepared to excavate Muslim heritage from the annals of history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amal Shoeib

    The moment I glanced the word "liar" associated with Abu Bakr and Abu huraira ,I was mentally shut to any ideas of the book. I neither liked it nor I trusted the references mentioned.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Janet Beday

    This book was recommended and is extraordinarily compelling. The history and perceptions of Islam are uppermost in a lot of peoples’ minds particularly in my home country of Germany which has taken in over a million refugees. This book is a thoughtful and personal journey into culture and religion. Its focus on historical sources as a counterpoint to current views, that are used to justify the treatment of women, is not new but it inspired a desire to find out more.

  26. 4 out of 5

    T

    Eye opening and provided a lot of insights to the context in which cultural views were codified in the early periods of Islam. Highly recommend for anyone trying to gain a well-rounded understanding of women's rights discourse in Islam.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ida

    Ini adalah pandangan aku, segala cacat cela semoga Tuhan ampunkan. 466 nota atau citation dalam 195 helaian thesis, surely she knows what she is talking about! "Islam has problems with women!" - Tariq Ramadan. "I think we have to admit that the majority of our women are oppressed" - Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. *This book is incredible! This book is deeply inspiring! Easy to read and very interesting* Fatema Mernissi seorang graduan dalam bidang sociology, anthropology, berbangsa Maghribi, dan  berlinguistik Ini adalah pandangan aku, segala cacat cela semoga Tuhan ampunkan. 466 nota atau citation dalam 195 helaian thesis, surely she knows what she is talking about! "Islam has problems with women!" - Tariq Ramadan. "I think we have to admit that the majority of our women are oppressed" - Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. *This book is incredible! This book is deeply inspiring! Easy to read and very interesting* Fatema Mernissi seorang graduan dalam bidang sociology, anthropology, berbangsa Maghribi, dan  berlinguistik Arab menyelak kembali buku-buku tafsir, hadis, kitab-kitab lama serta buku sejarah yang dikawal rapat para pentafsir lelaki dan cuba untuk memahami hubungan Islam dan wanita dan bagaimana pentafsirannya membantutkan kebebasan, dan hak wanita yang diperjuangkan Rasulullah saw, sesuatu yang ditentang masyarakat Islam kuno hingga ke akhir hayat baginda, ditentang juga oleh sebahagian para Sahabat! Fatema cuba untuk menentang institusi patriaki yang sangat sendat dengan kengkangan misogyny, dalam sejarah awal Islam, malahan sebelum Islam lagi. Fatema cuba menyoalkan hadis-hadis dalam Sahih Bukhari yang jelas bertentangan dengan perjuangan Rasulullah saw berkenaan wanita, hadis yang sendirinya merosakkan mesej tentang wanita dalam Islam dari dahulu sehingga sekarang. Beliau mempersoalkan kenapakah Bukhari tidak memasukkan penyanggahan (refutation) A'ishah yang jelas bercanggah dengan contoh-contoh hadis riwayat Abu Huraira yang merosakkan hak demokratik wanita dan mencela ketinggian nilai wanita di sisi Rasulullah saw. Ia juga menerangkan teknik pengumpulan hadis... Buku ini memperkenalkan kembali wanita-wanita yang dijulang Islam, A'ishah, Umm Salama; dalam perwatakan wanita yang tidak ideal (menurut ide orthodoxy "ta'at"), dan mewarnakan mereka lebih nuance; lebih wanita, lebih maknusiawi, lebih berani, lantang vokal, lebih celik intelek, berpolitik dan memperjuangkan hak di sisi Tuhan dan Islam. Ini sangat berlainan dengan cerita-cerita ustaz-ustaz (aku ikut konteks Malaysia) yang gemar mencerahkan kepada masyarakat kecantikan A'ishah, kemanisannya, keayuannya, ketaatnya (idea supporting subservience) dan jarang sekali kita dengar kelantangan A'ishah, jika kita dengar pun ia lebih kepada ide 'romantis' cemburunya terhadap Rasulullah dengan para isteri lain. Tidak pernah la aku dengar dialog bentak Umm Salama terhadap Umar al-Khatab dan ide orthodoknya untuk menghadkan kebebasan yang dinikmati isteri-isteri Rasulullah; tidak perlu sibuk dengan hal ehwal kami, Rasulullah lebih berhak menegur kami dan lebih arif tentang apa yang patut dan wajib (paraphrasing). Keadaan seksis beginilah yang dipersoalkan penulis. Idealisma lelaki terhadap wanita sampai sekarang sehingga menidakkan sejarah! Oleh kerana Fatema seorang anthropologist, dan sociologist, ia merangkakan buku dengan penceritaan penuh dengan konteks sejarah, genealogy, psychology. Ia akan menceritakan satu perkara dan cuba menghuraikan pembentukan cerita itu memudahkan pemahaman exegisis ataupun keadaan cerita itu berlaku ataupun nilai peribadi individu dalam jaluran isnad. Aku tidak merasakan penulis menentang hijab/sitr/curtain yang dijatuhkan kepada wanita. Apa yang lebih jelas, ia menentang kengkangan yang pada mulanya diusulkan ke atas wanita untuk keselamatan yang akhirnya develop menjadi satu institusi fahaman yang menghadkan hak demokratik individu wanita dalam masyarakat, dan lebih payah memenjarakan mereka di sesetengah dunia Islam, memundurkan ide masyarakat egalitarian yang diperjuangkan Rasulullah.  Ia cuba untuk mengingatkan kembali bahawa kesungguhan Umar al-Khatab untuk memaksa isteri-isteri baginda memakai jilbab, satu tindakan politik, satu pakaian kuno masyarakat pra-Islam yang ditentang Rasulullah sekian lama sehinggalah perkara-perkara yang menyebabkan hijab diturunkan kepada wanita Islam. Satu sejarah yang memecahkan Islam kepada 2 pihak dalam interpretasi-interprestasi kewajipannya. Malahan cucu Ali r.a, anak kepada Husin; Sakayna lebih berani dalam menolak hijab kerana ide yang bersangkutannya yang memundurkan hak wanita yang dianggapnya bercanggah dengan nilai Islam! Kita dapat interpretkan bahawa penentangan adalah lebih kepada penentangan simbolik wanita yang dihadkan kebebasannya di sebalik hijab untuk mengekalkan hierarki politik antara wanita dan lelaki. Seperti yang dilakukan Fatema yang mencabar untuk semua perkara diletakkan dalam konteks kerana kita memiliki a'qal untuk berfikir, kita boleh dan wajar lakukan kepada penulis. Fikiran individu sering terpengaruh dengan sejarah dan nilai hidupnya. Fatema dilahirkan di Maghrib, negara di ambang kemerdekaan dari penjajahan kolonial, di dalam masyarakat yang mentafsirkan Islam dengan memenjarakan wanita di dalam perkarangan harem dan penjagaan budaya tradisi patriaki yang sangat ketat. Kita harus faham di mana ide liberasasinya terhadap wanita dilahirkan dan selepas tamat pembacaan, kita harus kritikal bahawa ide beliau tidak bercanggahpun dengan Islam. Malahan ide egalitarian adalah revolusi moden yang diperjuangkan Rasulullah (yang tidak kesampaian kerana patriaki) dan Islam membenarnya pentafsiran al-Quran sejajar dengan mesej kedamaian yang diturunkan. Hak untuk membaca dan mentafsir sejarah terbuka kepada semua. Selain itu, buku ini menarik kerana ia merangkakan masyarakat pada zaman Rasulullah yang dalam ide moden sekarang hilang dalam satu gambaran fantasi, wujud atas hasil dunia Islam yang jatuh dan dijajah. Kejatuhan Islam, berani aku usulkan adalah kerana kengkangan orang Muslim terhadap wanita dalam sejarah-sejarah akhir kerajaan pentadbirannya. Kita harus lebih terbuka, kritis dan berani untuk membaca sejarah. Kita dilahirkan Muslim tetapi ramai yang tidak tahu Islam dan hubungan wanita dengannya. Aku lebih bernasib baik kerana aku wanita Muslim Malaysia namun ramai wanita di 'negara Islam' lain yang sehingga kini dihadkan kebebasannya, satu perkara yang sangat bercanggah denga nilai Islam tapi dilakukan atas namanya. Dan segala pujian-pujian aku hadiahkan kepada Ya Rasulullah SAW. Semoga limpahan kasih Tuhan kepadanya. Sesungguhnya aku lebih mencintai Rasulullah setelah tamat buku. Segala kasihku kepadamu Ya Rasul-Allah. Amin.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Basel

    This is a brilliant and an important work by Fatema Mernissi, a famous Moroccan Muslim feminist sociologist. (The English translation of the book was released under the name: “The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Islam”. Though an accurate translation would be “The Political Harem: The Prophet and his women”). It all started one day when she was buying some groceries. She asked the guy working at the shop about his opinion on a woman becoming a leader in the Muslim world. Th This is a brilliant and an important work by Fatema Mernissi, a famous Moroccan Muslim feminist sociologist. (The English translation of the book was released under the name: “The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Islam”. Though an accurate translation would be “The Political Harem: The Prophet and his women”). It all started one day when she was buying some groceries. She asked the guy working at the shop about his opinion on a woman becoming a leader in the Muslim world. This was met with such disdain and she was rebuked with a supposed quote by Muhammad saying how no people will gain prosperity if a woman became the leader. From this moment, the book starts trying to answer this question: How come Mohammad, the prophet of a religion she deeply believes and deeply values, would want to do her harm and do harm to all Muslim women? Surely something is wrong… To understand the context and reason why many Muslims have such dismissive and misogynistic views of women, she embarks on a rereading of Islamic history, especially focusing on the private life of Muhammad, his social and political life. She treats him as no more than a man. Even though this man was founding a religion and the prophet of her religion, he was also a man of his time, a harsh and brutal time, living in a harsh Bedouin society (for instance, when many people had daughters born, they would bury the new born babies alive in fear of shame.), and that man was also a warlord and a politician. Such a man had many aspiration, yet he was also flawed. Mernissi wants to show us how it is actually society that would create a representation of Islam to subjugate women, and in the religion people would inject their own personal bias. In a very meticulous research, Mernissi examines the project Mohammad had vis-à-vis women, especially, through examining his relations with the women of his life, his wives and daughters. Whenever most people nowadays speak of “Muslim women”, the first image that comes to their mind is the veil; Islam is a religion that forces women to cover up from head toe. Images of extreme societies such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia would come to people’s minds. This would be ironic according to Mernissi as the veil during Mohammad’s life time and rule wasn’t actually obligatory. The whole issue with the veil (And there’s a fascinating discussion in her book on the nature of the veil “hijab” itself) came years later in Islam, starting at first to be concerned only with Mohammad’s family , in his private home where people used to come and go as they please. It would be actually forced upon women years after his death by the second successor (Khalifa) Omar ben al Khattab. As much as Omar was a man of many virtues, he was known to be extremely tough regarding women, representing the common norms of his society. Any advancement in women’s rights was always met with fierce resistance by many men in that society. For instance, Islam at that time made a revolution by actually making it a religious right for all women to inherit. This, amongst many things, met fierce resistance. So what Mernissi does is analyze every moment in Mohammad’s life regarding the situation of women, showing that even though he, according to her, had a great project, he wasn’t fully able to achieve because of the fierce tribal and misogynistic resistance he got. Context is everything to Mernissi. In this book, she analyzes all the main sayings (Hadiths) by Mohammad and Quran verses regarding women, especially those used nowadays to subjugate women, and she puts them all in their chronological, social and historical context. One main point of this is to show how the lack of understanding of such a context could be easily used to subjugate and cause misery. This isn’t a defense of Islam per se, and Mernissi is a Muslim, but is a critical examination of the religion and its history, and she didn’t shy away by showing the shortcomings of its prophet, which is why, to no surprise, the book is banned in several Muslim countries. Not only is it destined to Muslims, but also to none Muslims as well. Mernissi’s main point is to show that you can totally be a Muslim and aspire to equality. Saying that a religion like Islam is simply “anti-women” if you’re a none Muslim, or that women’s place is inferior to men if you’re a Muslim, would be viewed by Mernissi as simply naive at best, dangerous at the worst. In the past 30 years, several Muslim majority countries around the world democratically elected women, Muslim women, beating men to be their heads of state. So to Mernissi the problem isn’t the religion as an isolated case. Rather it’s the society where the religion is in, whether it be the society of these days, or 1400 years ago.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Excellent book on women's rights in the Islamic tradition. I have always been fascinated by this religion and this region of the world. I found the entire book compelling. Merinissi broke down the tradition of hadith and that many religious traditions (hadith) that bar women from being active participants in the religion are based on man's interpretation of Muhammad's words and pre-Islamic traditions, not from Muhammad's words themselves. At the time, I was a young college student and this revel Excellent book on women's rights in the Islamic tradition. I have always been fascinated by this religion and this region of the world. I found the entire book compelling. Merinissi broke down the tradition of hadith and that many religious traditions (hadith) that bar women from being active participants in the religion are based on man's interpretation of Muhammad's words and pre-Islamic traditions, not from Muhammad's words themselves. At the time, I was a young college student and this revelation completely blew my mind. I adore this author and enjoy her books immensely. If you have any interest in the religion or this area of the world, then I recommend her books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Besim

    What else can I say... I read this in a "Muslim Women of the World" class and almost threw up just reading it.

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