Women Under Islam: Gender Justice and the Politics of Islamic Law
Is Islam inherently anti-women? In this groundbreaking work, Christina Jones-Pauly and Abir Dajani Tuqan examine the history and practice of Islamic law as it affects women throughout the world. They highlight the diversity of ways in which it has been interpreted, leading both to the progressive family-planning policies of Tunisia and the more conservative personal status laws of Egypt. Seeking to understand how a set of religious laws which initially empowered women subsequently became a tool for their oppression, they shift the debate away from whether Islamic law itself is misogynistic or not, and look instead at the contexts in which it has been applied, both in Arab and non-Arab cultures. The most important factor in determining whether court rulings are disadvantageous to women is not, they conclude, the conservativeness of the society, it is the institutions of that society, and in particular its pre-Islamic institutional history and the independence of its judiciary. In Pakistan, for example, the higher courts have been unable to resist popular and political pressure to criminalise extra-marital sexual relations, yet interpret the law themselves in a liberal way in keeping with the original spirit of the Qur’an and the Hadiths. The book also provides innovative insight into the application of Islamic law in countries where Muslims are the minority, exploring how the evolution of Sharia in South Africa’s constitutionalist legal framework creates new possibilities for progressive interpretations. Interweaving legal scholarship and detailed on the ground case studies, Women Under Islam provides both a rich reference resource and new way of understanding gender politics in the Islamic world.
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