Recovering the Female Voice in Islamic Scripture Women and Silence By Georgina L. Jardim (Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014. 256 pages.)

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Bahar Davary



The absence of women’s voices from the scriptures of the major world religions
has been the subject of feminist theologians’ inquiry, especially during
the past three decades. Georgina Jardim’s work in feminist scholarship and
women’s study is impressive. This book provides a fine synopsis of some of
the important works in Islamic hermeneutical tradition while set in a comparative framework. As such, it is a great contribution to the comparative feminist
hermeneutics of scripture. The author makes good use of works by Amina
Wadud, Barbara Stowasser, Asma Barlas, and other feminists who have worked
on the Qur’an or on paradigms of Muslim women in the Islamic textual tradition.
She weaves their ideas and theories with those of Annemarie Schimmel,
Sachiko Murata, Denise A. Spellberg, W. Montgomery Watt, Richard
Bell, Ashley M. Walker, Michael Sells, and others. In addition, she draws from
Christian and Jewish feminist thought as well as that of secular philosophers
or theoreticians in juxtaposition with Muslim interpretations. As the title suggests,
she focuses on women’s speech by emphasizing voice rather than silence.
The author concludes that women not only have a voice in Islamic
scripture, but that in the Abrahamic scriptures as a whole they break silence
in order to invoke social justice.
The book’s predominant theme, the Qur’anic account of “the woman
who disputes,” is juxtaposed with similar stories in the Jewish and Christian
scriptures, which makes it an interesting exploration in Abrahamic interfeminist
interreligious dialogue. Her use of scriptural reasoning to bring
Abrahamic and secular voices in conversation on this topic is original.
Among the few works with a comparative hermeneutic approach to women
in religion are Murata’s The Tao of Islam (1992), a sourcebook on gender
relations in Islamic discourse with references and analogies to the yin and
yang elements, and Yvonne Yazbek Haddad and John L. Esposito’s Daughters
of Abraham (2002). Jardim’s book is distinct in that it compares both
feminist methodologies as well as a parallel scriptural story in these three
traditions ...

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