Women’s Rights – from within the Qur’an

Professor Asma Barlas


Do Muslims need to secularize the Qur’an to obtain rights, in particular women’s rights? “No, says philosopher Asma Barlas — a Professor of Politics and Director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College, USA — because the Qur’an is sacred and untouchable.

But freedom in applying Qur’anic hermeneutics to support the struggle of women for equality and justice is important. Scriptures can be read and interpreted paying more attention to the problem of gender equality and following what I call an “antipatriarchal episteme”, because God’s word is in no way gendered.” Interviewed by Nina zu Fürstenberg: Professor Asma Barlas.

Professor Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas is a Pakistani-American writer and academic. Her specialties include comparative and international politics, Islam and Qur’anic hermeneutics, and women’s studies. Barlas was born in Pakistan in 1950.

She earned a bachelor of arts in English literature and philosophy from Kinnaird College and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Punjab. She also holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Denver. Barlas was one of the first women to be inducted into the foreign service in 1976.

Barlas has focused on the way Muslims produce religious knowledge, especially patriarchal exegesis of the Qur’an, a topic she has explored in her book, Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an.

She rejects the designation of her views and interpretations of Islam as “Islamic feminism”. Unless that term is defined as “a discourse of gender equality and social justice that derives its understanding and mandate from the Qur’an. And seeks the practice of rights and justice for all human beings in the totality of their existence across the public-private continuum.

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