Dr. Amina Wadud’s book entitled “Qur’an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective”, can be regarded as a ground breaking work in the field of female Qur’anic exegesis. It represents a departure from previous works that attempt to accommodate greater rights for women in Islam, but which nonetheless consider male superiority as justifiable and desirable. Such writings and books “explain” and rationalize inequality within the parameters of traditional exegetical methodology and rulings.
Dr. Wadud’s book steps out of this paradigm by challenging both the notion of gender inequality, as well as the exegetical approach employed in arriving at this conclusion. While tradition insists that mimicry of the Qur’anic legislation introduced to regulate 7th century Arabian society is the only valid approach, Wadud argues that it is essentially the principles behind the specific legislations that must be upheld, not necessarily the actual legislation.
She recommends instead,“the method of restricting the particulars to a specific context, extracting the principles extended by the Qur’an through that particular”
With this principle as a basis for her hermeneutical approach to Qur’anic interpretation, Dr. Wadud proposes revisiting controversial issues such as polygamy, women’s testimony, male authority, divorce and inheritance in light of modern circumstances.
Not only does the book firmly establish gender equality at the societal level, finding solid support for this contention in the Qur’an, it also cites examples of intellectual and spiritual equality between the sexes.
The book is a fascinating read because of the novelty of ideas introduced. Although it contains discussions and concepts that may appear to be abstruse to the lay reader due partly to a convoluted writing style, this difficulty is easily overcome through a careful and thoughtful examination of the text.