Karen Bauer and Feras HamzaAug 19, 2022
An Anthology of Qur'anic Commentaries (vol. 2)
Oxford University Press 2022
Karen Bauer and Feras Hamza's co-written book An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries (vol. 2): On Women (Oxford UP, 2022) is a collection of historical and contemporary commentaries on the Qur’an. It covers five issues: human creation and the idea of “a single soul”; marital roles, specifically Qur’anic verse 4:34 and women’s status in a marriage; Mary, mother of Jesus; women’s legal testimony; and Qur’anic ideas of modesty, specifically of veiling. A chapter is devoted to each of these topics, comprising classical, medieval, modern, and contemporary interpretations of these verses. All chapters include various Muslim perspectives, such as Sunni, Twelver Shia, Ismaili, Ibadi, and Sufi; with the exception of the chapter on Mary, each chapter also includes interviews with contemporary scholars, namely amina wadud, Sa’diyya Shaikh, Fariba Alasvand, Yusuf Saanei, and Nasser Ghorbannia.
The various and competing perspectives explored in this volume highlight the diversity and plurality of the Islamic exegetical tradition, portraying commentaries as a very human and engaging endeavor. These commentaries are always in conversation with the cultural and political milieu of the commentator’s time and place, but they also deeply honor the commentaries of past generations as a way to demonstrate authority and knowledge of the historical male tradition.
The book also includes an important and powerful chapter, a prolegomenon, on the Qur’anic lexicon on women, which offers a chronological sequence of women in the Qur’an and which traces the development of the Qur’an’s worldview from the earliest Meccan revelations through the later Medinan period. So, for instance, in the early Meccan verses, women are addressed rather implicitly and largely as a part of an anti-pagan polemic, but by the later Medinan verses, women have emerged as active pious and social subjects.
In this very engaging and enriching conversation with Karen Bauer and Feras Hamza, we discuss many of these issues and all of the chapters. We talk extensively about Qur’anic verse 4:34 on marital roles and responsibilities, about what it means to read the Qur’an literally—and is it even possible not to?—about tradition and tafsir and the limits of both, and about lived reality and religious authority. The interview was done in video format, and some listeners might enjoy watching it in its original form on my YouTube channel, What the Patriarchy.
Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.