• Imprint: Saqi Books
  • ISBN: 9780863564628
  • eISBN: 9780863564727
  • Published: February 2019
  • UK Price: £22.99
  • Format: 153 x 234 mm (Royal)
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Extent: 316pp
  • Subject: , ,

Believing Women in Islam

Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an

Asma Barlas

Does Islam call for the oppression of women? The subjugation of women in many Muslim countries is often used as evidence of this, while many Muslims read the Qur’an in ways that seem to justify sexual oppression and inequality. In this paradigm-shifting book, Asma Barlas argues that, far from supporting male privilege, the Qur’an actually affirms the complete equality of the sexes.

Offering a historical analysis of religious authority and knowledge, Barlas shows how, for centuries, Muslims have read patriarchy into the Qur’an to justify existing religious and social structures. In this seminal volume, she takes readers into the heart of Islamic teachings on women, gender and patriarchy, offering an egalitarian reading of Islam’s most sacred scripture.

This revised edition includes two new chapters, a new preface, and updates throughout.

About the Author

Asma Barlas is a professor of politics at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Her books include Re-understanding Islam: A Double Critique and Islam, Muslims, and the US: Essays on Religion and Politics.


‘This is an original and, at times, ground-breaking piece of scholarship.’ John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

‘[A] brilliantly executed work . . . A new generation of scholar-activists . . . will take cues from such a study to open up interpretations and modes of Islamic praxis that will resonate with the avowedly non-repressive divine intentions for Muslim and other faith communities worldwide.’ Arab Studies Journal

‘Barlas's thesis is irresistible: the Qur'an itself has a very positive view of women whereas patriarchal culture caused the various interpreters of the Qur'an to read their own biases into the text to justify the oppression of women. Barlas quotes from a smorgasbord of Islamic scholars, resulting at times in a choppy read that drowns out her own more appealing voice. The opening chapter is bogged down in such quoting, and also in excessive worrying over her critics on either side of the debate. Despite these flaws, this book is loaded with interesting facts about Islam that may even surprise Muslims’
Publishers Weekly