Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran

Overview

Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the re-introduction of Sharica law relating to gender and the family, women's rights in Iran suffered a major setback. However, as the implementers of the law have faced the social realities of women's lives and aspirations, positive changes have gradually come about. Here Ziba Mir-Hosseini takes us to the heart of the growing debates concerning the ways in which justice for women should be achieved. Through a series of lively interviews with clerics in the Iranian ...

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Overview

Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the re-introduction of Sharica law relating to gender and the family, women's rights in Iran suffered a major setback. However, as the implementers of the law have faced the social realities of women's lives and aspirations, positive changes have gradually come about. Here Ziba Mir-Hosseini takes us to the heart of the growing debates concerning the ways in which justice for women should be achieved. Through a series of lively interviews with clerics in the Iranian religious center of Qom, she seeks to understand the varying notions of gender that inform Islamic jurisprudence and to explore how clerics today perpetuate and modify these notions.

Mir-Hosseini finds three main approaches to the issue: insistence on "traditional" patriarchal interpretations based on "complementarity" but "inequality" between women and men; attempts to introduce "balance" into traditional interpretations; or a radical rethinking of the jurisprudential constructions of gender. She introduces the debates among the commentators by examining key passages in both written and oral texts and by narrating her meetings and discussions with the authors. Unique in its approach and its subject matter, the book relates Mir-Hosseini's engagement, as a Muslim woman and a social anthropologist educated and working in the West, with Shii'i Muslim thinkers of various backgrounds and views. In the literature on women in Islam, there is no account of such a face-to-face encounter, either between religion and gender politics or between the two genders.

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Editorial Reviews

L. Carl Brown
Anthropologist Mir-Hosseini presents her transcribed discussions with Iranian religious figures during research trips back to her native land. All but one (Abdu Karim Soroush) are clerics, and three are ayatollahs. Together, they represent three tendencies: the traditionalists who accept gender inequality, the "neo-traditionalists' who seek "gender balance" while staying within the traditional Islamic legal paradigm, and the modernists who demand gender equality and a more flexible Islamic legal system. Mir-Hosseini also describes women's journals in Iran and the public discussion of gender. These debates, just like their subjects, are often veiled.
Foreign Affairs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691010045
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/1999
  • Series: Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,356,221
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xxi
Note on Language xxiii
Introduction 3
Gender in Islam: The Need for Clarity 3
Perspectives on Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran 7
Narrative and Debate in Ethnographic Writing 10
Religious Authority and Knowledge in Post-Revolutionary Iran 11
Ethnography of Gender Debates in Qom: The Organization of the Book 17
PART ONE: THE TRADITIONALISTS: GENDER INEQUALITY 21
Introduction to Part One 23
One Women Ignored: Grand Ayatollah Madani 26
"The Way of Rulings on Marriage and Divorce" 30
"Newly Created Problems" 31
Ayatollah Madani in 1997 47
Two Women Politicized: Ayatollah Azari-Qomi 49
"Women's Image in the Islamic Order 51
"The Personality of Wooman in Comparison to Man" 58
"Duties of Wives and Husbands toward Each Other" 63
The "Culture of Hejab" 65
"Response to Your Questions" 71
Ayatollah Azari-Qomi in 1997 78
PART TWO: THE NEO-TRADITIONALISTS: GENDER BALANCE 81
Introduction to Part Two 83
Three Women Represented: Discussions with Payam-e Zan 86
The Discussion Begins 88
A Visit to the Shrine in Qom 110
Four Equality or Balance: Redefining Gender Notions in the Shari'a 112
The Second Session with Payam-e Zan 115
Five Women Reconsidered: Ayatollah Yusef Sane'i 144
Discussion with Ayatollah Sane'i 147
After the Meeting 168
Six Agreeing to Differ: Final Meeting with Payam-e Zan 170
The Final Session 172
A Second Visit to the Shrine 207
Payam-e Zan in 1997 208
PART THREE: THE MODERNISTS: TOWARD GENDER EQUALITY 211
Introduction to Part Three 213
Seven Challenges and Complicities: Abdolkarim Sorush and Gender 217
Sorush's Lectures on Women 222
Sorush in London 237
Eight Gender Equality and Islamic Jurisprudence: The Work of Hojjat ol-Eslam Sa'idzadeh 247
Sa'idzadeh in 1997 268
Conclusion 273
Glossary 281
Bibliographic Essay 283
Bibliography 287
Index 303

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